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A U.S. official in Russia is allowed to see detained WNBA star Brittney Griner

Brittney Griner, pictured blocking Courtney Vandersloot, was arrested upon her arrival at an airport outside of Moscow. Russian officials claim she was transporting hash oil vape cartridges in her luggage - a charge that carries up to 10 years in prison.
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Brittney Griner, pictured blocking Courtney Vandersloot, was arrested upon her arrival at an airport outside of Moscow. Russian officials claim she was transporting hash oil vape cartridges in her luggage - a charge that carries up to 10 years in prison.

After more than three weeks of detention in Russia, WNBA star Brittney Griner has finally been granted consular access, State Department spokesman Ned Price told CNN on Wednesday.

"Within the past couple hours, an official from our embassy has been granted consular access to Brittney Griner," Price said.

Griner, a veteran player for the Phoenix Mercury who also plays for a Russian team in the off season, was arrested near Moscow sometime in February for allegedly smuggling vape cartridges containing hashish oil into the country. The charge carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

U.S. officials have said she had only had access to a Russian legal team until now since she was taken into custody from the Sheremetyevo International Airport.

"We were able to check on her condition," Price said, and added that Griner is doing well.

"We will continue to work very closely with her legal team, with her broader network to see to it that she is treated fairly. That is a message we will continue to convey in no uncertain terms to the Russian Federation," Price said.

Ekaterina Kalugina, a member of Public Monitoring Commission — a semi-official body with access to Russian prisons, who spent time with Griner earlier this month, told NPR the basketball player's mental state is "calm" and the conditions of her detention "standard."

Kalugina said the basketball star is allowed two trips to a Russian sauna per week, and an hourly walk once a day. She also has access to books, Russian TV and self-fashioned board games.

The Olympic gold medalist is scheduled to appear at a hearing on May 19.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.