Russia extends drug detention of US basketball star Brittney Griner
US basketball star Brittney Griner, seen at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, has been detained in Russia on drug charges Aris MESSINIS AFP/File

A Russian court on Friday extended the pre-trial detention on drug charges of US basketball star Brittney Griner, state media said, as a US consular officer was able to see her.

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medallist and WNBA champion, was detained at Moscow airport in February on charges of carrying in her luggage vape cartridges with cannabis oil, which could carry a 10-year prison sentence.

A court in the town of Khimki outside Moscow extended Griner's arrest until June 18, state news agency TASS reported, citing a court representative.

Griner's detention came days before Russia defied US warnings and sent troops into Ukraine, prompting Western powers to impose sweeping sanctions and send military aid to Kyiv.

Washington said last month that Russia had "wrongfully detained" the six-foot-nine (2.06-meter) basketball star, 31, and turned her case over to the US special envoy in charge of hostages.

A consular officer of the US embassy in Moscow met her Friday on the margins of the hearing, State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

"The officer was able to confirm that Brittney Griner is doing as well as can be expected under what can only be described as exceedingly difficult circumstances," Price told reporters in Washington.

The WNBA has said it is working to bring Griner home and honoured her when the latest season started in May.

Griner is considered among the greatest female basketball players and is a high points scorer, partly thanks to her ability to dunk the ball.

She was playing club basketball in Russia before the resumption of the US season, a common practice for American stars seeking additional income.

Despite sky-high tensions between the US and Russia, the two countries conducted a high-profile prisoner exchange in April, in scenes reminiscent of the Cold War.

In the exchange Russia freed Trevor Reed, a former US Marine accused of drunkenly fighting with police.

Washington also says Russia has unjustly detained Paul Whelan, a former security official at a vehicle parts company who was sentenced to 16 years in prison on espionage charges in 2020.

© 2022 AFP