The U.S. State Department has determined that Russia has wrongfully detained American basketball player Brittney Griner, a department spokesperson said in a statement.
Russia said it had detained seven-time WNBA All-Star player Griner in February for possession of vape cartridges containing hash oil.
The Russian embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Russia detained Griner amid soaring tensions between Washington and Moscow over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but U.S. officials had not previously determined that she was wrongfully detained.
The United States has complained that Russia does not grant regular access to Americans detained there, although consular access to Griner was granted and a consular officer visited her on March 23, the spokesperson said.
“The U.S. government will continue to undertake efforts to provide appropriate support to Ms. Griner,” the statement said. Griner’s case was now being handled by Roger Carstens, special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, the spokesperson said.
Russia returned another U.S. citizen, former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed, last week in a prisoner swap for a Russian pilot convicted of drug smuggling.
Another former marine, Paul Whelan, remains detained in Russia after he was sentenced to 16 years in prison on espionage charges in June 2020.