Putin says war could continue until ‘the last Ukrainian is left standing’

Brittney Griner is escorted to a court hearing in Khimki, Russia, on July 7. (Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters)

American basketball star Brittney Griner pleaded guilty on the second day of trial on charges of alleged drug trafficking, Griner’s attorneys confirmed to CNN on Thursday.

While Griner pleaded guilty, she said she had no intention of committing a crime, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported Thursday.

The hearing in the Khimki court of the Moscow region is over. Griner left the courtroom without making any comment to the press.

The next hearing is scheduled for July 14. Griner faces up to 10 years in prison on the charge.

According to RIA Novosti, Griner told the court through her interpreter that she had no intention of carrying luggage with hash oil, but that it was because she “had packed up in a hurry.”

“Mrs. Griner says she is pleading guilty. She had no intention to carry drugs, no intention to commit a crime, as she was packing [her luggage] in a hurry,” his interpreter said in court, RIA Novosti reported.

According to a source close to Griner, the decision to plead guilty was made by her alone. But in recent weeks, Griner, his family, lawyers and experts have discussed the decision at length.

Given the reported 99% conviction rate in Russian criminal cases, Griner was asked to weigh all the factors, including a plea that could ultimately result in a shorter sentence.

Griner, 31, who played in Russia during the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) offseason, was arrested Feb. 17 at a Moscow airport, a week before Russia invaded Ukraine. Russian authorities claimed she had cannabis oil in her luggage and charged her with smuggling large quantities of a narcotic, an offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoken by phone Wednesday with Brittney Griner’s wife, Cherelle. Griner wrote in a letter delivered to Biden on Monday that she feared being detained indefinitely in Russia.

Brittney and Cherelle Griner have exchanged letters but haven’t had a phone call since the basketball star’s arrest. A call was scheduled for the couple’s anniversary at the end of June but did not take place due to an “error” later admitted by the US Embassy.

Asked by reporters outside the court whether Griner can contact his wife, Griner’s lawyer Maria Blagovolina said: ‘It can be done in the form of an appeal. Unfortunately, given that Brittney is now going to court, it’s logistically difficult to arrange.

Because Griner is traveling to court from her detention center north of Moscow or being held in Khimki detention center by the court, Blagovolina added that “we haven’t been able to organize it yet. technically”.

Griner has been detained in Russia since February, her detention was extended for another six months pending trial last week.

What US officials say: The top diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in Russia shared a letter from Biden to Griner during his trial on Thursday.

U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Elizabeth Rood and members of the consular team from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow attended the trial, and Rood shared with Griner Biden’s letter, which the president discussed during the call with Griner’s wife.

“Once again, I was able to speak with Ms. Griner in the courtroom. She said she ate well. She is able to read books and under the circumstances she is fine,” Rood said.

“Most importantly, I was able to share with Ms. Griner a letter from President Biden, and Mr. Griner was able to read that letter,” Rood said.

Griner appreciated Biden’s letter, Griner’s lawyer Alexander Boykov said Thursday.

“She appreciated it like every citizen of every country would appreciate a personal letter from the president,” Boykov told reporters.

In a Tweeter After Griner’s guilty plea, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “We will not back down until Brittney, Paul Whelan and all other wrongfully detained Americans are reunited with their loved ones.

The Chargé d’Affaires underlined “the commitment of the United States government at the highest level to the safe return home of Ms. Griner and all wrongfully detained U.S. citizens, as well as the commitment of the United States Embassy United in Moscow to care for and protect the interests of all American citizens detained or imprisoned in Russia.

CNN’s Betsy Klein, Jennifer Hansler, Kylie Atwood and Abby Phillip contributed to this post.


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