Brittney Griner pleads guilty to Russian drugs chargeon July 7, 2022 at 2:40 pm

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The US basketball player admits the charges in a Russian court but denies any intent to break the law.

US WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner arrives to a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow on July 7, 2022Image source, Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP

US basketball player Brittney Griner has pleaded guilty to drug charges in a Russian court but has denied deliberately breaking the law.

The Olympic gold medallist was detained in February at an airport near Moscow when cannabis oil vape cartridges were allegedly found in her luggage.

“I was in a rush packing and the cartridges accidentally ended up in my bag,” she told the court in Khimki.

Her trial began last week on charges that could mean 10 years in jail.

Griner’s wife, Cherelle, earlier called on President Joe Biden to do “whatever is necessary” to secure her release. Mr Biden told Cherelle Griner he was working to secure a release as soon as possible.

The basketball star had already sent the president a letter saying she was “terrified [she] might be here forever”.

Russian government officials have warned the US not to “make noise in public about the case”.

“The hype and working on the public, with all the love for this genre among modern politicians, currently only disturbs” the court process, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said.

“I’d like to plead guilty, your honour. But there was no intent. I didn’t want to break the law,” Brittney Griner told the court in English. She said she would like to give her testimony later and needed time to prepare. The trial was then adjourned for a week.

Griner is one of the most successful players in the women’s professional league in the US, with WNBA team Phoenix Mercury. She had travelled to Russia to play club basketball during the off-season and has featured in EuroLeague team UMMC Ekaterinburg since 2014.

Cannabis oil is illegal in Russia, but her high-profile arrest at Sheremetyevo airport near Moscow came a week before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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