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Brittney Griner is forced into a 'very, very, very tiny cage' for every five-hour trip to court in Russia, her wife has claimed.
The 6ft 9in American basketball star was arrested four months ago at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow. Police said she was carrying vape canisters with cannabis oil.
The Phoenix Mercury star and two-time US Olympic gold medallist could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of large-scale transportation of drugs.
At a closed-door preliminary hearing on Monday (27 June) in the Moscow suburb of Khimki, the 31-year-old's detention was extended for another six months, to 20 December.
Her wife, Cherelle, said Griner – who she refers to as 'BG' – is kept in a 'very, very, very tiny cage' for every five-hour round trip to court, and 130 days on from her arrest, she is 'exhausted'.
Speaking to CNN, she said: "It's really, really difficult. This is not a situation where the rhetoric is matching the action.
"I do have to unfortunately push people to make sure that the things they're telling me is also matching their actions and so it's been the hardest thing to balance because I can't let up.
"It's over 130 days and BG's still not back."
Cherelle said she needs officials to convince her that they're actually doing everything in their power to bring her home, adding that she 'absolutely' wants to talk to President Joe Biden about the case.
"While everyone wants to tell me they care, I'd love for him to tell me he cares," she said.
The athlete’s detention and trial come at an extraordinarily low point in Moscow-Washington relations.
Griner was arrested less than a week before Russia sent troops into Ukraine, which aggravated already high tensions between the two countries.
The invasion led to sweeping sanctions being imposed by the United States, and Russia denounced the US for sending weapons to Ukraine.
Amid the tension, Griner's supporters have kept a low profile in hopes of a quiet resolution, until May, when the state department reclassified her as wrongfully detained and shifted oversight of her case to its special presidential envoy for hostage affairs – effectively the US government's chief negotiator.
But earlier today (Friday 1 July), Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov denied politics played a role in Griner's detention and prosecution.
"The facts are that the famous athlete was detained in possession of prohibited medication containing narcotic substances," Peskov told reporters.
"In view of what I've said, it can't be politically motivated," he added.
Griner's supporters have encouraged a prisoner swap and Russian news media have repeatedly raised speculation that she could be swapped for Russian arms trader Viktor Bout – nicknamed 'the Merchant of Death' – who is serving a 25-year sentence for conspiracy to kill US citizens and providing aid to a terrorist organisation.
Russia has campaigned for Bout's release for years, but the wide discrepancy between Griner's case – which involves alleged possession of vape cartridges containing cannabis oil – and Bout's global dealings in deadly weapons, could make such a swap unpalatable to the US.
Speaking to reporters on Air Force One on Tuesday (28 June), US national security adviser Jake Sullivan declined to detail efforts to free Griner, but maintained the Biden administration is 'actively engaged."
If you would like to donate to the Red Cross Emergency Appeal, which will help provide food, medicines and basic medical supplies, shelter and water to those in Ukraine, click here for more information
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