MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesman lashed out at the United States on Thursday, calling the jailing of basketball star Brittney Griner on drug charges “unjustified detention,” saying that it showed a lack of respect for Russian law.
Griner has been jailed since being arrested in mid-February at a Moscow airport after vaping cartridges containing cannabis oil were found in her luggage. The Phoenix Mercury star and two-time Olympic gold medalist admitted in court this month that she had the boobs, but said she had no intention of breaking the law.
She faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted. His trial is due to resume on Tuesday.
In May, the State Department named Griner as wrongfully detained, placing her case under the supervision of its special presidential envoy for hostage affairs — effectively, the government’s chief hostage negotiator.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday that the legalization of cannabis for medical and recreational purposes in parts of the United States has no bearing on what happens in Russia.
“If an American citizen has been caught smuggling drugs, and she doesn’t deny it, it should be commensurate with our local Russian laws, not those passed in San Francisco, New York and Washington,” Zakharova said.
“You understand, if drugs are legalized in the United States, in a number of states, and it has been for a long time, and now the whole country is going to be addicted, that doesn’t mean that all the other countries are following the same path,” she added.
Russian media have consistently speculated that Griner could be traded for prominent Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is imprisoned in the United States, and that Paul Whelan, an American imprisoned in Russia for espionage, could also feature in an exchange.
U.S. officials have not commented on the prospects for such a trade. Russian officials said no trade could be discussed until the legal proceedings against Griner are concluded. It’s unclear how long the trial will last, but a court has authorized Griner’s detention until December 20.