Brittney Griner’s wife says Russia is holding WNBA star ‘hostage’

WNBA star Brittney Griner's wife told reporters that her spouse was demoralised and afraid that she would be forgotten as she waits to appeal the nine year prison sentence handed to her from a Russian court on drug charges.

On Thursday, Cherelle Griner appeared on CBS Mornings where she discussed her wife's state of mind, saying the WNBA star was at her "absolute weakest moment in life right now” and afraid she would be forgotten by the US and the public.

“She’s very afraid about being left and forgotten in Russia, or just completely used to the point of her detriment,” she told the show.

Cherelle Griner described a phone call with her wife in which the basketball star said she felt "like my life just doesn't matter."

“Like, y’all don’t see the need to get me back home? Am I just nothing?” Cherelle Griner quoted her wife as saying.

Brittney Griner was taken into custody by Russian officials in February after airport security found vape cartridges containing hash oil in her luggage. She was convicted in a Russian court on smuggling and drug possession charges and was sentenced on 4 August to nine years in prison.

Cherelle Griner went on to share that she was afraid that something terrible could happen to her wife while she is in Russian custody.

“As much as everybody’s telling me a different definition of what BG is, it feels to me as if she’s a hostage,” she said. “It terrifies me because when you watch movies, sometimes those situations don’t end well. Sometimes they never get the person back.”

Adding to the WNBA stars fears is the possibility that she could be transferred to a labor camp away from Moscow, where she is currently being held. Brittney Griner is appealing her sentencing during a hearing that will take place on 25 October.

Cherelle Griner and Joe Biden met at the White House last month to discuss the situation. She said Mr Biden was "doing what he can, but there's another party in this situation," referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Some political commentators fear Brittney Griner may be part of a Russian scheme to collect "political pawns" for use in prisoner exchanges or to leverage power in international negotiations.

Ben Noble, the associate professor of Russian politics at University College London, told France24 that Brittney Griner's imprisonment could be politically motivated.

“It may well be that she is being considered by the Russian political leadership as a possible candidate for a prisoner exchange,” he said. “There has been talk of swapping [Brittney] Griner for the Russian national Viktor Bout, who is a convicted arms dealer currently in prison in the US.”

Russia engaged in a similar trade with the US in April, when it released former Marine Trevor Reed in exchange for a Russian citizen held in the US on drug smuggling charges.