A famous American basketball player was found in a Russian pre-trial detention center: the US consul abandoned her
If it were not for the events in Ukraine, then, probably, the detention and arrest in Russia, at Sheremetyevo Airport of American Britney Griner, the famous athlete, two-time Olympic champion, would have been a sensation No. 1 in the world.
But as it is, it is – at the moment, the American consul has not been able to visit with one of the most famous basketball players on the planet to make sure that she was all right. So far, only two Russian lawyers are involved in her defense. The conditions of detention of 31-year-old Britney Griner were checked by human rights activists, members of the Public Monitoring Commission of the Moscow Region, among them a special correspondent for Russian MK Newspaper.
Britney Griner was detained at Sheremetyevo Airport in February. In her luggage, customs officers, according to media reports, found vapes with cannabis oil. In Russia, using hash oil is a crime, and in any doses and purposes. A service dog trained on drugs detected narcotics in the luggage of Griner who had flown from New York to Moscow. Now the two-time Olympic champion – in Rio in 2016 and in Tokyo in 2020 – faces up to 10 years in prison for drug possession and smuggling.
To Russia for millions
Information about the incident was widely disseminated by the media on March 5, when the decision to arrest Griner was made by a court in Khimki. Now American politicians are trying to link the criminal case against Griner with the aggravated relations between Russia and the West. However, this does not affect her position, who is currently in one of the pre-trial detention centers in the Moscow region.
She flew from New York to Russia to play for one of the leading basketball teams in our country. Griner earns more than $1 million a year – playing for the Yekaterinburg Basketball Club.
“Phoenix Mercury center Britney Griner is one of the most prominent WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association) players of all time. Now she is in custody in Russia, and this situation not only threatens her security in a deep global crisis, but also exposes the problems of professional women’s basketball in America.”
Apparently, Greiner plays in Russia for financial reasons. In the offseason, many WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association) stars compete in other countries during the off-season simply because it is several times more profitable than at home. For several weeks, the Griner family, her business and legal representatives, the WNBA, the NBA and some players were aware of the problem with Russian law, but avoided drawing attention to Griner so as not to provoke.
The American consul is in no hurry
Everything, as usual, is an ordinary weekday, here the prisoners are talking on a landline phone, others are going to court in the temporary detention center. The institution where Britney is located functions not only as a colony, but also as a pre-trial detention center. They are waiting for the American consul, he must come at least someday. In the end, their citizen was detained, and even a celebrity. But the diplomat does not seem to be in a hurry.
Although the Israeli consul, for example, regularly visited a citizen of his country, 26-year-old Naama Issahar – she, as many probably remember, was also detained at the airport with hashish in 2019. The Issachar case and the Griner case are almost a blueprint except that Britney flew directly to Russia, where she has been living and working for several years, that is, she could in advance take an interest in our laws.
In the case of Naama Issachar, an unremarkable girl, unfolded before the pandemic and all this world confusion, therefore, it caused an unprecedented public outcry. On October 19, 2019, rallies were held in Tel Aviv and New York demanding her release. The President of Israel personally addressed the head of the Russian Federation with a request to pardon Naama. And the Prime Minister of Israel apologized to Vladimir Putin for Issachar and also asked for her release. Also, the mother of the arrested woman achieved a personal meeting with the President of Russia. In general, they saved Naama at the level of heads of state. As a result, she wrote a petition for pardon to Putin, he accepted it, and on January 30, 2020, the Israeli woman flew on a private plane of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sarah Netanyahu to her home. I remember how Issachar drew, taught her cellmates to do yoga, in general, tried to be positive, despite the fact that her nerves were at the limit.
Sleeping with legs crossed
People in the colony are used to celebrities of all kinds. Although, of course, there are certain nuances. For example, Britney’s height is 2 meters 6 centimeters. The bed on the second tier, where she sleeps, is designed for a maximum of 1.80, and even the foot of the bed itself is limited by bars, so you can’t stretch your legs up to the wall. However, the bed is standard, as it should be according to the house rules. Britney is not discouraged. She is generally very peaceful and calm. As if nothing had happened to her at all – well, yes, she ended up in prison, well, yes, snow-covered Russia outside the window, well, that’s how it happens, there is nothing special here.
– Have you ever been in a prison before, Britney? – we ask her. – You somehow do not look shocked and alarmed. – Yes, my father worked in the police, and my brother was in prison, – she spreads her hands.
– And how, is there a difference between the places of detention in our country and in yours? – Yes, prisons are very different. If I were in America, they could probably release me on bail now.
Her shoes are size 53. And a dimensionless dark jacket, to which multi-colored stripes are sewn – red, black, yellow, green. “Blacks live for the world, that’s what it says on them,” explains Britney Greiner. She is also, most likely, an activist of the extremely popular BLM social movement in the states, she opposes racism and violence against blacks. The same movement when African Americans force whites to kneel and apologize for the behavior of their slave-owning ancestors.
– How do you sit with white neighbors? – I nod at the cellmates of the basketball player.
-“Oh, no problem, I like white people,” she exclaims.
There are two cellmates – Olya and Alena. Olya is 21, Alena is 28. Both are here under the “people’s” article 228 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, that is, for the same drugs. They speak English and therefore can communicate with a foreigner. Pioneers. Human rights activists do not have the right to be interested in the details of their criminal cases, but most often the so-called “mortgagers”, that is, young people who are used as intermediaries between sellers and buyers of illicit drugs, are serving time in this composition.
– Do you have enough food? Are you well fed? Are the portions small? – we bombard the athlete with questions.
“No. Everything is fine. There is enough food. -I ate noodles with milk for breakfast today. And for the first time I tried this, like her, buckwheat. We don’t have that kind of grain.”
– Do you receive transmissions? – Yes. There is no problem with this. I have two lawyers that I am allowed to meet with.
– Did you manage to contact your relatives in the USA? There is such a paid service of the Federal Penitentiary Service-letter, you write an electronic news to whom you want. You are answered. You can even write in English, however, in this case you will have to wait for some time, according to the law, the translator will have to check the content. – I know about it. But, unfortunately, in America it is impossible to register on this site, so I have not spoken with relatives, – the Olympic champion sighs.
She has two books that the lawyer brought. This is a biography of the Rolling Stones and in English Dostoyevsky.
“Demons,” Olya explains the name to me.
– “Demons”? Isn’t it “Demons”?
– A, accurately “Demons”!
Britney doesn’t speak Russian at all. Not a single word, although she played in Russia for several years. “It was just that translators were always there,” she explains. The same Naama Issachar for six months in a Russian pre-trial detention center spoke the great and mighty quite decently.
But Britney either does not understand that, according to her article, she faces up to 10 years in prison, or keeps her face well. At least until she learns the language.
“I lost track of time in the temporary detention center, where I spent about ten days until they sent me here,” she sighs.
A flat-screen TV hangs in the cell – this is a must for women. It shows up to twenty channels and switches centrally by clock in all chambers. News is coming, but it’s frankly scary to watch, and yesterday we got to the “Magnificent Century”. The story about the inhabitants of the harem of the Turkish Sultan, as they say, really liked.
Another of the entertainments is to walk in the walking yard and bath twice a week. The night before, Britney was playing Battleship with her neighbors. They also have such a game in America, but it’s a board game, but here it’s school-style in a checkered notebook. “Once I won, another she,” picks up the second neighbor Alena.
What’s next for Britney? Still, up to ten years. And it seems that the United States is not very eager to save its citizen. For now, Britney needs to think about simple and affordable household items in order to simply save herself. For example, how to cut off the cut-off the locs generously scattered on her head.
So far I can wash them once every two weeks with shampoo that her lawyer brings. If, Griner stay behind bars drags on, something will also need to be done about this.
PS The famous American basketball player Britney Griner arrested in Russia is called a political prisoner in the US press. Without any reliable information, the media publish articles about how hard it is for her behind bars.
Meanwhile, in the future, her situation can be improved. Moreover, Griner can even return to her homeland.
There are convicts in the United States with Russian passports, who otherwise have no chance of returning home. Why not trade one of them for Britney?
Is such an exchange of prisoners possible in principle, says human rights activist Ivan Melnikov, vice president of the Russian branch of the International Committee for the Protection of Human Rights.
– Ivan, how many citizens are held in places of deprivation of liberty in our country and in the United States? – Russians in America, I suppose, about 2.5 thousand. We have much fewer Americans, about 10 people: Trevor Reed, Britney Griner, Paul Willan, Mark Vogel and others.
– Many Russians who sit there are well-known personalities. – Yes, this is Viktor Bout, who was sentenced in 2012 in the United States to 25 years in prison, and Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot involved in a diplomatic incident between Russia and the United States. In 2010, he was arrested in Liberia as part of the Relentless operation and extradited to the United States without proper documents, later Yaroshenko said that he had been tortured.
They were recently joined by Vladislav Klyushin, accused of trading insider information, but the US is said to have detained him to obtain information about the time he worked on a monitoring system for the presidential administration.
What needs to be done to make this exchange possible? – I sent appeals to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation personally to Sergey Lavrov and the US Secretary of State with a proposal to return to the issue of a possible exchange and provide assistance so that appropriate measures are taken. Being so far from home and in such difficult conditions is always a concern for our citizens, Yaroshenko and Bout, as far as I know, are now experiencing serious health problems, and because of the imposed sanctions, it is impossible to send money for medicines to them. I understand that relatives cannot send money to American prisoners in the Russian Federation either.
– Britney Griner opened an account, and her lawyer transferred some amount for purchases in a store at the SIZO.
– But, of course, this should not be regulated in each specific case, but in general, a regulation should be adopted that makes transfers for imprisoned foreigners possible. If it is possible to remove all bureaucratic obstacles as quickly as possible and exchange our prisoners, then this must be done. Everyone is waiting for their loved ones at home. Both in America and in Russia.