US basketball star Griner pleads guilty in Russian drug trial

American basketball star Brittney Griner, who is jailed in Russia, has pleaded guilty to drug possession and smuggling during her trial in Moscow, but said she had no intention of committing a crime.

Russian news agencies and Reuters quoted Griner as saying that she had acted unintentionally because she was packing in haste.Boykov told reporters on Thursday they were hoping for the most lenient sentencing possible.

The White House said President Joe Biden called Griner’s wife on Wednesday to assure her that he is doing all he can to obtain the athlete’s release, as soon as possible.

They spoke after Biden read a letter from Griner in which she said she feared she’d never return home.

Washington has not made public its strategy in the case and the US may have little leverage with Moscow because of strong animosity due to Russia’s military actions in Ukraine.

The US Department of State has designated Griner as wrongfully detained, moving her case under the supervision of its special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, effectively the government’s chief hostage negotiator.

Elizabeth Rood, deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in Moscow, told reporters after the hearing that she spoke to Griner in the courtroom and shared a letter from Biden that she read.

“We will not relent until Brittney, Paul Whelan and all other wrongfully detained Americans are reunited with their loved ones,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted, referring to former US Marine Whelan, who has been imprisoned in Russia since 2018 on espionage charges.

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