A call between detained WNBA star Brittney Griner and her wife, Cherelle Griner, has been rescheduled, the US State Department said Tuesday, after a “mistake” prevented the couple from speaking on their anniversary Saturday.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Tuesday that the call “will take place in relatively short order” and reiterated that they “deeply regret” that Brittney Griner, who has been imprisoned in Russia since February, was “unable to speak to her wife over the weekend because of a logistical error.”
Cherelle Griner told The Associated Press on Monday that her wife had attempted to call her 11 times on Saturday but nobody at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow was there to connect the call. She said the call had been scheduled for weeks.
“I was distraught. I was hurt. I was done, fed up,” she told the AP, adding that it “was such a big moment because this would have been the first time where I truly could tell if she’s OK.”
“Imagine the heartbreak. 123 days w/out hearing her voice. Holding out hope for a call. Finally getting that call, just to have it keep ringing. My heart breaks into pieces every time I think of it – but it’s nothing compared to the reality BG and her family are enduring,” Brittney Griner’s agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas tweeted Monday.
Price on Tuesday blamed the issue in part on staffing restrictions imposed on the U.S. Embassy in Moscow by the Russian government.
“It was a logistical issue that was compounded in part by the fact that our embassy in Moscow is under significant restrictions in terms of its staffing,” he said at a State Department briefing. “And so when we have issues with the telephone system there, for example, the technicians are not located on site. In fact, they’re not even located in Russia. They have to be located in a third country because of the onerous restrictions that the Russian Federation has placed on our embassy and its operations.”
“So all of that compounded what was a mistake, what was a logistical error, and we look forward to the opportunity for Brittney Griner to speak to her wife in short order,” Price said.
Brittney Griner, 31, has been held in Russia since February on accusations of drug smuggling, and her pretrial detention has been extended through at least early July. The State Department has said she is wrongfully detained.
Last week, officials at the State Department met with members of her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Cherelle Griner by phone in mid-May, but there are growing calls, including by Cherelle Griner herself, for a meeting with President Joe Biden.
“If #BrittneyGriner is a priority, @POTUS will meet with Brittney’s family and this Administration will do what is necessary to get her home swiftly and safely,” Kagawa Colas said. “Each day is precious and not another should go by without the action required to bring BG home.”
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