What Could Be Next for WNBA Star Brittney Griner, Who Remains Held in Russia?

Brittney Griner remains detained in Russia on drug charges

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The release of Marine veteran Trevor Reed is leading to more questions about the fate of fellow Texan and WNBA star Brittney Griner.

Reed, of Granbury, was released Wednesday in a prisoner exchange between the U.S. and Russia. He’d been in custody in Russia since 2019.

Griner was arrested in Moscow in February on drug charges.

Russian federal customs officials in March released security video showing a traveler, believed to be Griner, going through airport security and an inspection of her suitcase.

The customs service claimed they found vape cartridges containing hash oil, an offense that could carry a 10-year prison sentence.

The 31-year-old Houston native is a Baylor graduate and center with the Phoenix Mercury who's played in Russia the last seven years during the WNBA off-season.

“It looks very, very suspicious to me. I’ve seen this movie before,” said Brian Whitmore, an assistant professor of practice at the University of Texas at Arlington who is regarded as an expert on Russian and Soviet affairs.

“They have no qualms about snatching Americans under the guise of alleged crimes and then using them as bargaining chips,” Whitmore said.

NBC 5's Brian Curtis speaks with Kay Bailey Hutchison, former U.S. Senator and former UN Ambassador to NATO, on the prisoner swap that released North Texas Marine veteran Trevor Reed and what the deal says about U.S.-Russia relations.

Whitmore believes Russia will try to use Griner as collateral for the exchange of a Russian prisoner detained in the U.S.

It's still unclear what, if any, impact Reed’s release might have on other detainees.

Despite tensions between the U.S. and Russia over the war in Ukraine, Whitmore says Reed's release gives him hope that Griner could come home.

“Diplomacy is still working,” Whitmore said.

Wednesday, a State Department official called Griner's case a "top priority." Last month, Griner's detention was extended to May 19, when another court hearing could be held.

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