On Friday, the US State Department issued a statement demanding access to detained WNBA player Brittney Griner in response to a member of a Russian state-backed prison monitoring group saying the Phoenix Mercury star was doing well behind bars.
Speaking to the Associated Press on Friday, Ekaterina Kalugina – a member of the public monitoring commission that visits lockups in Moscow and its surrounding areas – said she spoke to Griner on Monday at the pretrial facility where she’s being held. With the help of a cellmate who speaks Russian and English, Kalugina said Griner is calm.
“Her physical condition is fine, she’s holding up fine, and I’d even say that she is fairly calm and isn’t anxious,” Kalugina said.
Kalugina also said Griner’s lawyers have visited her on a regular basis, bringing her care packages with food and personal items. However, the U.S. consul has yet to pay Griner a visit, according to Kalugina.
Even though Kalugina is part of a commission that positions itself as independent, such groups rarely challenge the Russian government on major issues. The United States is now stepping up its push for consular access to Griner.
US demands access to Griner
“We are closely engaged on this case and in frequent contact with Brittney Griner’s legal team. We insist the Russian government provide consular access to all U.S. citizen detainees in Russia, including those in pre-trial detention, as Brittney Griner is,” the State Department said in its statement. “We have repeatedly asked for consular access to these detainees and have consistently been denied access.”
Griner, who was arrested in mid-February after arriving at a Moscow airport while allegedly carrying vape pens with cannabis oil, is facing a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. On Thursday, Russian state news agency Tass reported a court extended Griner’s pretrial detention until May 19.