By Staff Writer
This article originally appeared in Insider.
Brittney Griner has been in Russian custody for more than three months.
On February 17, the WNBA superstar was arrested at a Moscow airport and subsequently detained after Russian customs agents claimed she was traveling with hashish oil in her luggage.
Just one week later, Russia sent troops across the border to Ukraine. The move from Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government sparked a brutal ground war the two nations are still fighting today.
For those close to Griner, including her wife, Cherelle, the invasion stoked fears regarding the two-time Olympic gold medalist’s well-being.
“That almost killed me, actually,” Cherelle told ESPN’s Angela Rye. “I was terrified, what that meant. I thought that was it. Like, I’m really never gonna see her again.”
It’s not clear exactly how Russia’s war effort impacts Griner’s prospects of returning to the US, though Esquire Digital chief legal analyst Aron Solomon previously told Insider that Putin may be inclined to exchange the 6-foot-9 star for reduced American sanctions against his country.
Unsurprisingly, many were concerned that the United States’ strong stance against Russia in the war with Ukraine could close the lines of communication between American and Russian negotiators, thereby limiting the US government’s ability to bring detainees like Griner home. But Trevor Reed’s release via a prisoner exchange with the Russians came as a promising sign that progress could still be made in these cases.
Shortly thereafter, the US State Department announced it would consider Griner to be “wrongfully detained.” And with the Phoenix Mercury star’s case moving under the purview of the special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, Roger Carstens, precedent suggests the government chose to increase efforts to negotiate for Griner’s release rather than wait for her case to make its way through the Russian judicial system.
But until Griner is on a flight back home, these developments will provide little comfort to Cherelle — who confirmed Wednesday that she has not spoken to President Joe Biden about matters involving her wife.
“I want my person back,” Cherelle said. “I feel every second that BG’s not here.”
“Most people are counting it by the days,” she added, choking up. “But it’s not days for me.”