Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Cherelle Griner ‘distraught’ PLANNED call to wife Brittney in Russia botched over US error

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“I have no confidence in our government at the moment,” Cherelle said as she missed an opportunity to speak for the first time in more than four months

What would have been a joyful virtual reunion for WNBA all-star Brittney Griner and her wife Cherelle Griner turned into pain for the couple. The 31-year-old player was arrested at a Moscow airport in February 2022 when Russian authorities claimed she was in possession of cannabis oil and accused her of smuggling significant quantities of a narcotic, an offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison. A Moscow court recently extended Brittney’s detention until July 2. It was the third time her detention had been extended, Russian state media TASS reported.

Cherelle was told how the WNBA star tried to connect more than 11 times on his fourth anniversary on June 18, but the US Embassy in Russia desk was idle over the weekend, preventing the call from going through. This would have been the couple’s first opportunity to speak in more than four months since the basketball player was arrested by Russian authorities. “I find it unacceptable and I have no faith in our government at the moment. If I can’t trust you to take an after hours Saturday call, how can I trust you to actually negotiate on my wife’s behalf to get home? Because that’s a much bigger job than catching a call on Saturday.” Cherelle went on to explain that a contact in the US government later apologized to her for the mistake, since the number Brittney gave to dial was normally Calls from prisoners processed Monday through late Fridays but not weekends, so no one was there to route the call.

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In response to the embassy’s apology, she told the Associated Press, “But mind you, this call was scheduled for almost two weeks — with an appointment over the weekend.” She expressed her distress by saying, “That was such a big moment , because this would have been the first time I could really tell if she was okay. It would have been the first time for me to actually hear her in real time and really know if she’s okay or if she’s just seconds away from not being there anymore.”

“I was disturbed. I was injured. I was done, fed up,” Cherelle shared, recounting how she ended up crying over that snafu. “I’m pretty sure I texted the agent at BG and I was like, ‘I don’t want to speak to anyone. I’m going to take a minute to organize my feelings and just tell everyone that I’m unavailable right now. Because it just blew my mind. I wasn’t well, I’m still not well.”

On the other hand, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, Brittney’s agent, also showed her distress through a June 20 tweet. She wrote: “Imagine the heartbreak. 123 days without hearing her voice. hoping for a call. Finally got that call just to keep it ringing. My heart breaks in pieces every time I think about it – but it’s nothing compared to the reality BG and her family have to endure. #WeAreBG”

A US State Department official told CNN in May that Brittney was officially classified as “wrongly detained.” Supporters, including the player’s family and the WNBA, have called for her release, with some raising concerns that Moscow could use her as a political weapon amid tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

According to the latest reports, Brittney will remain in Russian custody until at least July 2 after a Russian court extended her detention. This comes after a report in May claimed that Brittney was allegedly involved in a prisoner exchange with Viktor Bout, who is in the middle of a 25-year sentence in federal prison after being convicted of conspiring to murder Americans Support for a Colombian terrorist organization. Fox News revealed that Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov commented on the exchange, but there was no further information. Later that month, Russian officials said they would not consider Brittney for a prisoner swap with the US “until a judicial investigation into her case is complete.”

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