On Monday (June 20), Cherelle Griner, the wife of WNBA star Brittney Griner, said she tried to call her wife nearly a dozen times through the American embassy in Russia on the couple’s fourth anniversary, but they never connected since the phone line at the embassy was not staffed.
According to CBS News, The couple hasn’t spoken via telephone in the four months since Griner’s arrest and detainment in Russia. That was supposed to change on Saturday, when a highly-anticipated call was to have finally taken place after getting Russia government approval. But the day ended without any contact, leaving Cherelle angry and with questions about what went wrong. She also reportedly suspects that Russian authorities, at least initially, had thwarted the call.
Cherelle Griner says she learned from her wife’s lawyers on Monday that she had tried to call 11 times over a period of several hours, dialing a number she’d been given at the U.S. embassy in Moscow, which the couple had been told would then patch them through. Each time the call went unanswered because the embassy desk where the phone rang was reportedly unstaffed on Saturday.
“I was distraught. I was hurt. I was done, fed up,” Cherelle Griner told The Associated Press in an interview. “I'm pretty sure I texted BG's agent and was like: ‘I don't want to talk to anybody. It's going to take me a minute to get my emotions together, and just tell everybody I'm unavailable right now.' Because it just knocked me out. I wasn't well, I'm still not well.”
The State Department has since issued a statement, saying “we deeply regret that Brittney Griner was unable to speak with her wife because of a logistical error,” and reiterated that the safety of Americans overseas is their highest priority.
The AP reports that the call had been scheduled for two weeks and that Cherelle is “very pissed” about the alleged mistake. She also says she was not warned that it might be logistically impossible because of the weekend.
“I find it unacceptable and I have zero trust in our government right now,” Cherelle added. “If I can’t trust you to catch a Saturday call outside of business hours, how can I trust you to actually be negotiating on my wife’s behalf to come home? Because that’s a much bigger ask than to catch a Saturday call.”
Griner was detained on February 17 by Russian Federal Customs Service at Sheremetyevo Airport near Moscow after agents allegedly discovered hashish oil vape cartridges in her luggage, The New York Times reported.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist who plays center for the Phoenix Mercury stands accused of transporting drugs, which can carry a 10-year prison sentence.
The U.S. has officially classified Griner as being wrongfully detained. According to CNN, the US Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs (SPEHA) and Roger Carstens, a State Department official, confirmed Griner is wrongfully detained.