Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most potent spokesperson did not indicate on Monday that WNBA player Brittney Griner will be freed shortly by Russian authorities, who claim to have found hashish in her suitcase.
In an exclusive conversation by US News’ Keir Simmons, The spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, disputed the State Department’s assertion that Griner is a Russian hostage.
Griner said he was not different from “hundreds and hundreds of Russian citizens that were sentenced for carrying hashish.”
“Why should we make an exemption for a foreign citizen?” he asked.
Griner 31-year-old Griner was detained in February; following her in Moscow; the US news reported that an investigation of her bag found vape cartridges that contained hashish oil, which is a derivative of cannabis. The crime could result in a maximum penalty of 10 years in Russia.
The Peskov interview was held in Moscow, where the Russian government is clamping down on journalists and limiting what journalists are allowed to say under the threat of imprisonment.
US News reported that, In May, The State Department reclassified Griner as “wrongfully detained” and transferred the responsibility for her case to State Department Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, also known as SPEHA.
“She violated Russian law, and now she’s being prosecuted,” Peskov stated. “It’s nothing to do with being a hostage. Many American citizens live here, and the citizens enjoy freedom… however, you must abide by the law.”
When asked what the reason was why Russia did not refuse to deny Griner’s entry or send him back, Peskov said he couldn’t discuss the Russian authorities’ decision.
Griner’s legal team didn’t instantly respond to comments on Monday.
Griner was wanted in Russia to participate in Russia’s professional league throughout the WNBA off-season. Her detention was prolonged three times. According to Russian state news agency Tass, the latest extension has left the player in jail until July 2.