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Kremlin’s spokesman denies that WNBA star Brittney Griner is a ‘hostage’

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov has refuted the suggestion that the arrest and detention of WNBA star Brittney Griner in Russia amounts to political imprisonment.

In an exclusive interview with NBC News that aired Monday, Peskov claimed Griner is being held captive only for breaking the law.

And he equated her predicament with “hundreds of hundreds of Russian citizens convicted of carrying hashish.”

‘Why should we make an exemption for a foreign citizen?’ Peskov argued.

Griner, 31, was detained at a Moscow airport on Feb. 17 after authorities there said a search of her purse revealed vaping cartridges containing cannabis oil.

Keir Simmons of NBC News noted that the US government is essentially treating Griner’s detention as a hostage situation, but Peskov dodged.

“She has broken Russian law and now she is being prosecuted,” Peskov told NBC. “It’s not about being a hostage. There are many American citizens here. They enjoy their freedoms… but you have to obey the laws.’

The top Kremlin spokesman added that he strongly disagreed with the State Department’s reclassification of Griner’s arrest in May as “wrongly detained.”

During the interview, Peskov also said that Alexander Drueke and Andy Huynh, two Americans captured in Ukraine while fighting the Kremlin invasion, had “endangered” Russian soldiers and “should be held accountable for those crimes.”

When pressed about the crimes committed by the Americans, Peskov admitted that their specific crimes were not yet known, but claimed they would not be covered by the Geneva conventions on prisoners of war because they were not part of the Ukrainian military.

Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov has refuted the US State Department's classification of the arrest of WNBA star Brittney Griner as a political prison term.

Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov has refuted the US State Department’s classification of the arrest of WNBA star Brittney Griner as a political prison term.

Griner, 31, was detained at a Russian airport on February 17 after authorities there said a search of her purse revealed vaping cartridges containing cannabis oil.

Griner, 31, was detained at a Russian airport on February 17 after authorities there said a search of her purse revealed vaping cartridges containing cannabis oil.

The WNBA star (pictured at the Tokyo Olympics) had traveled during the WNBA outdoor season to join the Russian Premier League

The WNBA star (pictured at the Tokyo Olympics) had traveled during the WNBA outdoor season to join the Russian Premier League

When asked to comment on the possible “terrible message” of Griner’s imprisonment after traveling to the Russian Premier League during the WNBA season, Peskov ignored the criticism.

“It is also a terrible message to bring some banned essences and materials to this country,” he said.

A phone call between Griner and her wife, Cherelle Griner, was postponed after a previous attempt to contact on the couple’s birthday failed due to an “unfortunate mistake,” officials of the Biden administration said Tuesday.

Griner is said to have spoken with her wife for the first time since her arrest in Russia in mid-February on Saturday, the couple’s fourth birthday.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said the call could not be completed due to a “logistical error” that officials quickly fixed so that another call could be made.

The call is said to have been routed through the US embassy in Russia, which is said to have transferred the call.

Cherelle Griner said Monday she learned her wife had tried 11 times to call her through the embassy by dialing a number she was given, but no one answered because that particular desk was unmanned on Saturday.

Karine Jean-Pierre, White House press secretary, told reporters the State Department was arranging another call, but did not say when that would be.

Griner leaves a courtroom after a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, Friday, May 13, 2022

Griner leaves a courtroom after a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, Friday, May 13, 2022

A phone call between Griner and her wife (pictured together), Cherelle Griner, was postponed after a previous attempt to contact on the couple's anniversary failed due to an

A phone call between Griner and her wife (pictured together), Cherelle Griner, was postponed after a previous attempt to contact on the couple’s anniversary failed due to an “unfortunate mistake,” Biden officials said Tuesday.

Griner won Olympic gold medals with the U.S. national teams in 2016 and 2021 and is a seven-time All-Star who also plays for the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA but was drawn to the Russian league for the higher salaries.

The US State Department said the 31-year-old has been “unjustly detained” since Russian officials accused her of drug smuggling.

The WNBA has acknowledged Griner’s absence this season in a number of ways, including social media posts from many players and the league placing a decal with her initials and number on the home floors of all 12 teams in that league.

In early May, Griner’s case was turned over to the US Presidential Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs (SPEHA), which is negotiating the release of hostages and other Americans who are being wrongly held.

The allegations against Griner have not been proven in court and several officials have accused the Russian government of filing false charges against Griner and other imprisoned Americans.

The Olympian pleaded not guilty to the charges in a Moscow court.

After repeated requests, a foreign ministry official in Moscow was granted consular access to Griner last month and the first-team squad for the WNBA was in “good condition.”

“We have been able to monitor her condition, we will continue to work closely with her legal team, with her wider network, to ensure she is treated fairly,” a representative said at the time.

“Our official has determined that Brittney Griner is in good shape and we will continue to do everything we can to ensure she is treated fairly during this ordeal.”

Her only problem was that the prison beds in the prison were reportedly too short for her six-foot-tall frame.

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