WASHINGTON – WNBA star Brittney Griner tried to call his wife through the U.S. embassy in Russia nearly a dozen times on Saturday, the couple’s fourth anniversary, but they could not be reached because the embassy phone line was not full of staff, Cherelle Griner said Monday.
The couple has not spoken on the phone in the four months since Griner’s drug arrest in Russia. That was to change on Saturday, when the long-awaited call was finally due. However, the day came and went without any contact, leaving Cherelle Griner in distress to think about what went wrong and suspect, at least initially, that the Russian authorities had failed.
On Monday, he said he learned a more worrying truth from his wife’s lawyers: Brittney Griner had actually tried to call 11 times in a matter of hours, dialing a number given to her by the US embassy in Moscow. she was then told to call Cherelle Griner in Phoenix. However, each time the call was missed because the embassy desk where the phone rang was probably unemployed on Saturday.
“I was confused. I was hurt. I was out, tired,” Cherelle Griner told the Associated Press in an interview about the anniversary she had been waiting in tears. “I’m pretty sure I sent a message to the BG agent and said, ‘I don’t want to talk to anyone. It takes me a minute to get my emotions together and just tell everyone I’m not available right now. just knocked me out. I wasn’t healthy, I’m still not healthy. ”
The State Department said Monday that “we deeply regret that Brittney Griner was unable to speak to his wife due to a logistical error.” The department reiterated that it has no higher priority than the security of Americans abroad and that it communicates regularly. hostages and illegally detained families.
For Cherelle Griner, this experience has deepened the already intense frustration with the US government’s response to her wife’s case. U.S. officials have repeatedly said they are working behind the scenes to bring the two-way Olympian home from Russia, and his case is considered a priority. But Cherelle Griner said she was “very outraged” by Saturday’s ordeal, especially since the speech was scheduled for two weeks, but no one warned her during that time that it might be logistically impossible due to the weekend.
He added: “I find this unacceptable and I do not trust our government at the moment. If I cannot trust that you will be able to speak on Saturday outside working hours, how can I trust that you are actually negotiating on behalf of my wife? Because it’s a much bigger requirement than catching a Saturday call. “
Cherelle Griner said the US government contact apologized for the mistake. He said it had since become known that the number Brittney Griner was asked to dial usually handled prisoner calls Monday through Friday, but not on weekends.
“But note,” Cherelle Griner said in an interview, “this phone call was scheduled for almost two weeks – the date of the weekend.”
He added: “I find this unacceptable and I do not trust our government at the moment. If I cannot trust that you will be able to speak on Saturday outside working hours, how can I trust that you are actually negotiating on behalf of my wife? Because it’s a much bigger requirement than calling on Saturday. “
Cherelle Griner said she still hopes to talk to or meet with President Joe Biden, but “it is starting to seem like it isn’t there right now.”
Brittney Griner, a seven-time WNBA star player who plays for the Phoenix Mercury team, was arrested on February 17 at a Russian airport after authorities reported that cartridges containing hemp oil had been found during a search of her bag.
He was illegally detained by the State Department in May, taking his case under the supervision of his special envoy for hostage affairs, in fact the chief negotiator for government hostages. Russia’s state news agency Tass said last week that his detention had been extended until July 3.
Cherelle Griner says she has had to rely only on others’ assessments of her wife’s condition. Lawyers and consular officers have been able to talk to the basketball star, but his wife has not.
The night before the call, he went to bed at 5 pm to be awake and awake at midnight to get the expected call from Russia to Phoenix, which did not come.
“It was such a great moment because it would have been the first time I really understood if she was okay,” Cherelle Griner said. “It would have been the first time for me to just hear him in real time and really find out if he’s okay, or if he’s a few seconds away from the fact that he no longer exists.”
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