U.S. Reclassifies WNBA Star Brittney Griner as ‘Wrongfully Detained’ by Russia

The United States government now considered the WNBA star held by the Russian government to be “wrongfully detained.” Brittney Griner has been detained by the Russian government for 75 days. 

Experts say this is a significant shift in how the U.S. government will try to get Griner home. 

The State Department said that the welfare and safety of American citizens abroad are among the highest of priorities for the government and that the Department of State has determined that the Russian Federation has “wrongfully detained” Griner. 

Officials and other sources who are close to the case have not said what led to the change in rhetoric, or what it will take overall to secure the American athlete’s release. 

It does mean, according to experts, that the government will no longer be waiting for Griner’s case to play out through Russia’s legal system, and instead will immediately seek to negotiate her return. 

It also means that fellow WNBA players, as well as supporters in Congress, will be told that they have the family’s blessing to now bring as much attention as possible to her case, rather than be hushed about it. 

Until now, Griner’s support team — both personal and congressional — followed advice from the State Department to keep a low profile, of fears that otherwise, she could become more valuable to Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government. 

The former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson has agreed to work on Griner’s case. Richardson has also privately worked as an international hostage negotiator for years. 

A State Department official said that the government has determined it’s wrongful detention of a U.S. citizen and that therefore the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens will lead the interagency team to make sure she is released. 

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