American basketball player Brittney Griner pleaded guilty to drugs in a Russian court.

The 31-year-old was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport in February while traveling to play for a Russian team.

Police said he was carrying vape cans with cannabis oil.

Today he told the court, “I’d like to plead guilty, Your Honor. But there was no intention. I didn’t want to break the law.”

Russian news agencies reported the proceedings and sued Griner as testifying that he acted unwittingly because he was quickly packing his bags for the trip.

Griner’s lawyers upheld his guilty plea, with one telling reporters they hoped for the most lenient sentence possible.

Phoenix Mercury star and two-time Olympic gold medalist in the United States could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Griner is eating well, is able to read books and “under the circumstances, he’s fine,” said US Embassy diplomat Elizabeth Rood, who spoke to her in court.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted that the team had given her a letter from President Biden and that she “would not give in” until she and other unjustly detained Americans were released.

The player’s wife urged US President Joe Biden to secure his release, calling her “a political pawn”.

The White House said Wednesday the president had phoned his wife to say that he is doing everything he can to get Griner released.

They spoke after Mr. Biden read a handwritten letter from Griner in which she said she was worried she would never come home.

“I realize you are dealing with so many things, but please don’t forget me and the other American inmates …” he said. “Please do everything possible to bring us home.”

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Griner plays for Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA league

On Thursday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned that “attempts by the US to make noise in public … do not help to concretely resolve the issues”.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov previously denied politics and the war in Ukraine had anything to do with the sports star’s detention.

A spokesman for the Russian foreign ministry said Griner had committed a “serious crime” supported by “indisputable evidence”.

Speculation on the “Death Merchant” trade.

The case is gaining further momentum in the United States, with the likes of eminent activist Rev Al Sharpton among those calling on President Biden to do more.

Griner’s supporters encouraged a prisoner swap like the April one that sent Navy veteran Trevor Reed home in exchange for a Russian pilot convicted of drug trafficking conspiracy.

Russian media speculated that it could be exchanged for arms dealer Viktor Bout, nicknamed the “death merchant,” and who is serving 25 years in a US prison.

However, Ryabkov said “there are no formal or procedural reasons to talk about further steps” until the trial is over.

Griner was on his way to play for UMMC Yekaterinburg in the Russian league to increase his income during the US off-season.

His trial began last week but was adjourned after two witnesses failed to show up and it is feared that it could take months to complete.

His next appearance is scheduled for July 14th.



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