US basketball star Brittney Griner pleads guilty to drug smuggling charges in a Russian court but denied intending to break the law in a case that has further inflamed tensions between Moscow and Washington.
The two-time Olympic gold medallist and WNBA champion, detained days before Russia sent troops to Ukraine, faces up to a decade behind bars for bringing vape cartridges with cannabis oil into the country.
The star tells a court in the town of Khimki outside Moscow that she “would like to plead guilty” to all the charges and stressed she had “no intention” of breaking any Russian law.
“I was in a rush packing. And the cartridges accidentally ended up in my bag.”
The athlete, who is six-foot-nine, wore a red T-shirt and matching trousers. She walked into the courtroom with her tattooed arms handcuffed to a Russian guard.
Her lawyer Alexander Boykov calls for “as soft a sentence as possible.”
He says Griner had “appreciated” receiving a letter from US President Joe Biden, who said on Wednesday that he would make bringing her home a “priority.”
Moscow hit back, saying that US “hype” over Griner would not help her case.
“The hype and working on the public, with all the love for this genre among modern politicians, currently only disturbs [the court process],” Russia Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said.
“It does not just distract from the case but creates interference in the core sense of the word. Silence is needed here.”