EXPLAINER: Will a Russian prisoner exchange have an impact on Griner? | professional sports

Brittney Griner remains in custody in Russia and it’s unclear how an unexpected prisoner exchange between the United States and Russia that freed Navy veteran Trevor Reed on Wednesday will affect the WNBA star’s status.

Griner has been detained in Russia since mid-February.

the agreement announced by the United States and Russia involving Reed, an American imprisoned for nearly three years, would have been a notable diplomatic maneuver even in peacetime. It was all the more surprising given that it was done as Russia’s war with Ukraine drove relations with the United States to their lowest point in decades.

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who plays for the WNBA Phoenix Mercury, was arrested in Russia for alleged possession of a cannabis derivative legal in much of the world. The offense can mean up to 10 years in prison. Experts have predicted the two-time Olympic gold medalist could get significantly less if found guilty.

To like many top WNBA players, Griner plays overseas to supplement his income. She was returning to the country after the Russian League, in which she also plays, paused for the FIBA ​​World Cup Qualifying Tournament.

What does prisoner exchange mean?

It’s unclear if Reed’s release will affect Griner’s case. It seems unlikely to have an immediate impact, in part because the administration has played down the idea of ​​a broader rapprochement with Moscow at a time when Russia is at war with Ukraine.

Is Griner’s case similar?

Moreover, Griner’s case is at a very different status from that of Reed, who had been found guilty by a Russian court and sentenced to nine years in prison. Griner’s case, on the other hand, has yet to make it through the Russian court system, with the evidence and facts still unclear.

The United States had found that Reed and another American corporate security official from Michigan, Paul Whelan, had been wrongfully detained by Russia and had pressured Moscow to release them. US officials have yet to make a similar decision about Griner, which means their role – at least overtly – is generally limited to ensuring she has access to consular services when behind. bars.

The 6ft 9in Griner is being held in a detention center near Moscow. She meets regularly with her lawyers and met with a US embassy official last month to check on her condition.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said last month that Griner appeared “to be in good shape.” Price did not identify the official who had obtained consular access to Griner.

Griner had his detention extended until May 19. More information about his case could then emerge. But regardless of the factual allegations against her in court, it is impossible to disentangle the legal case from the wider political implications.

In some cases, US officials speak loudly when they are convinced an American has been wrongfully detained. But Griner’s case is barely two months old, and authorities have yet to make that determination. A State Department office that works to free American hostages and wrongful detainees is not known to be involved.

Associated Press writer Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this story.

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