“I just keep hearing that, you know, he has power. She’s a political pawn,” said Cherrell, who became emotionally talking about what she knew about Greener’s detention during an interview published Wednesday on “Good.” morning, America. ” “So if they keep it because they want you to do something, then I want you to do it.”
The Phoenix Mercury Center has been detained since Feb. 17 after cartridges for vape cartridges containing cannabis oil were found in her luggage at a Moscow airport.
The 31-year-old Greener, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in the United States, faces charges of drug smuggling, with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Earlier this month, the Biden administration said Greener was being detained illegally.
Cherrell spoke with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken about Greener’s case, but not with the president.
“I was grateful for the call, you say it is a top priority, but I want to see it. And I want to see that I will see BG in the United States, ”Sherel said in her first public interview. “At this point, I don’t even know who I’ll return when she returns.”
Russian officials have called Greener’s case a criminal offense without creating any political alliances. But Moscow’s war in Ukraine has brought US-Russian relations to their lowest level since the Cold War.
Despite tensions, Russia and the United States had an unexpected prisoner exchange last month, exchanging former Marine Trevor Reed for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot serving a 20-year federal sentence for conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the United States.
Although the United States does not normally accept such exchanges, they struck a deal in part because Yaroshenko has already served most of his term.
The Russians can consider Greener as someone who could appear in the next such exchange.
In addition to Greener, another American who is considered unjustly detained in Russia is Paul Whelan, head of corporate security in Michigan. Whelan was arrested in December 2018 during a friend’s wedding visit and was later sentenced to 16 years in prison on espionage charges that his family called fictitious.
“Even though they are separate people, separate roles, no connection, other than what they are going through in Russia, I obviously also want him to come back,” Sherel said. “You don’t want anyone out there experiencing what they were going through.”
Sherel, who graduated from North Carolina Central University Law School earlier this month, has not spoken to Greenner since she was detained.
“In fact, I first heard the news through Britney. She started texting me at about 2 am, ”Sherel said. “Baby. Baby. Baby. Wake up. I’m in this room. I don’t know what’s going on.” And so I instantly send the message, “Who are they and what room?”
Cherrell said Greener responded by sending an SMS: “Customs officers. They just grabbed me as I passed by and they have this room. ” Greener then sent a message saying, “They’re going to pick up my phone.”
Cherrell said she told Greener to call her if she could. She is still waiting for this call almost 100 days later.
“The first week I lay on this couch and cried eyeballs. I was numb. I couldn’t move, ”Cherrell said. “And then I said, ‘You have to get up now.’
Cheryl and Britney communicate through letters and her lawyers. Lawyers are printing articles to show Greener so she can be aware of what’s going on.
Initially, Greenner’s friends and teammates were reluctant to talk about her situation for fear of interfering in negotiations for her release. However, they began to speak cautiously before the Women’s Final Four in early April, when her detention attracted increasing attention in the country.
Sherel became emotional when she talked about support and how she helps Greener stay strong during the fight for her release. The WNBA acknowledged the absence of a 6-foot-9 Mercury center by placing a sticker with her initials and number on the home floor of all 12 teams.
“It comforts BG,” Sherel said. “It lets her know that she’s not forgotten, and … if you’re sitting there, your country … they haven’t come yet … for your help. I know she’s feeling good because she doesn’t want to to be forgotten.
“Things like that matter, hopefully,” Sherel added. “It makes her realize that she’s not forgotten. I know these little moments give her some hope.”
Scherel said that before the detention, Grener had extensive experience playing in Russia over the past nine years. She was returning to the country after the Russian league took a break from qualifying for the World Cup when she was detained.
“You know that you said that if you can really play in Russia … in the team that BG plays for,” said Scherel. “They treat them like superstars.”
Greener, who won the NCAA Championship in Baylor, earns more than $ 1 million by playing for UMMC Ekaterinburg to supplement her WNBA income, where she earns a maximum base salary of $ 228,000. Elite players such as Griner can earn up to $ 500,000 on their WNBA salaries, bonuses and marketing contracts.
“BG would wholeheartedly like not to go abroad,” Sherel said. “She has only had one Thanksgiving in the (United States) in the nine years since she was a professional.”
Representatives of the WNBA and the United States worked on her release, but without visible progress. A U.S. consulate officer was able to meet with Greener last week.
“We noted that the consular officer of our embassy in Moscow was able to visit Britney Greener on the sidelines of her court hearing in Moscow that day,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Tuesday. “We stressed that, in our opinion, one-time consular visits are not enough.
“But it is not only our opinion, but also the requirements of the Vienna Convention and other bilateral agreements, which stipulate that we must have regular permanent access to Americans in detention around the world, including in jail ».
AP writer-diplomat Matthew Lee of Washington contributed to this report.
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