WNBA star Brittney Griner still in Russia

WNBA star Brittney Griner still in Russia

The US basketball star Brittney Griner is still in Russia and it is not clear how an unexpected prisoner exchange between the United States and Russia that freed Marine veteran Trevor Reed on Wednesday will affect the status of the WNBA star.

Griner has been held in Russia since February of this year.

The deal between the US and Russia about Reed, an American imprisoned for nearly three years, would have been a notable diplomatic manoeuvre even in times of peace.

It is surprising because it has been done at a time when Russia's war with Ukraine has driven relations with the US to their lowest point in decades.

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who plays for the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury, was arrested in Russia for possession of a cannabis derivative legal in much of the world.

The offence can lead to up to 10 years in prison, but experts say Griner will get much less if convicted.

Like many top WNBA players, Griner plays overseas as a way to supplement her income. She was returning to the country after the Russian League, in which she also plays, took a break for the FIBA World Cup qualifying tournament.

It is not clear if Reed's release will have any bearing on Griner's case.

It seems unlikely that it will have a immediate impact, in part because Washington has played down the idea of a broader rapprochement with Moscow at a time when Russia is at war with Ukraine.

Cherelle, Griner's wife, took to Instagram on Wednesday, saying that her heart is overflowing with joy for the Reed family. She does not know them personally, but she does know the pain of being held in a foreign country.

That level of pain can only be remedied by a safe return home. That day is today for the Reed family.

Trevor, welcome home, and send love to you and your family on this special day. He was convicted in a Russian court and sentenced to nine years in prison. The evidence and facts are still unclear, and Griner's case is yet to go through the Russian court system.

The US had concluded that Reed and another American, Michigan corporate security executive, Paul Whelan, were unjustly detained by Russia and officials, who had pressed Moscow for their release.

American officials haven't yet made a similar decision about Griner, meaning that their role is generally confined to ensuring she has access to consular services while behind bars.

Where is Griner now?

The 2.1 metre-tall Griner is being held in a detention facility near Moscow. She has been in touch with her lawyers regularly and had a visit with a US embassy official last month to check on her condition.

State Department spokeswoman Ned Price said last month that Griner appeared to be in good condition. He did not identify the official who had been granted consular access to the athlete.

Griner had her detention extended to May 19. There may be more information about her case.

It's impossible to separate the legal case from the political implications, regardless of the factual allegations against her in court.

In some cases, US officials speak out loudly when they're convinced that an American has been wrongly detained. Griner's case is barely two months old, and officials have yet to make that determination.

A US State Department office that works to free American hostages and citizens who have been unjustly detained is not known to be involved.