WASHINGTON – U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner, detained in Russia for months, was not able to speak to her wife as scheduled due to a logistical error compounded by Russia’s restrictions on the U.S. embassy’s operations in Moscow, the State Department said on Tuesday.
“We deeply regret that Brittney Griner was unable to speak to her wife over the weekend because of a logistical error,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said, adding that the call has been rescheduled.
The Associated Press on Tuesday reported that Griner tried to call her wife nearly a dozen times through the American embassy in Russia on their fourth anniversary on Saturday but they never connected as the phone line at the embassy was not staffed, according to Cherelle Griner.
“It was a logistical issue that was compounded in part by the fact that our embassy in Moscow is under significant restrictions in terms of its staffing,” Price told reporters.
The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) seven-time All-Star was detained at a Moscow airport on Feb. 17 when a search of her luggage allegedly revealed multiple cannabis oil vape cartridges. She could face up to 10 years in prison.
Last week her pre-trial detention was extended to July 2.
Russia and the U.S. were locked in a dispute over the size and functioning of their respective diplomatic missions long before Russian President Vladimir Putin launched what he calls his “special military operation” against Ukraine on Feb. 24.
In October 2021, a senior State Department official briefing reporters said the Department was getting to the point of being able to maintain only a “caretaker presence” in Russia.
At the time, the staff at the embassy in Moscow — the last operational U.S. mission in the country after consulates in Vladivostok and Yekaterinburg were shuttered – had shrunk to 120 from about 1,200 in early 2017.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Daphne Psaledakis; Editing by Ken Ferris)