WNBA star Brittney Griner tried to call his wife nearly a dozen times through the US Embassy in Russia on the couple’s fourth anniversary on Saturday, but they never got through. never connected because the embassy’s phone line was unstaffed, Cherelle Griner said Monday.
The couple have not spoken on the phone in the four months since Griner’s arrest in Russia, where she remains imprisoned. That was set to change on Saturday, when a long-awaited appeal was finally set to take place after gaining approval from the Russian government. But the day came and went without any contact, leaving an anguished Cherelle Griner to wonder what was wrong and to suspect at least at first that the Russian authorities had foiled the call.
On Monday, she said she learned a more distressing truth from her wife’s lawyers: Brittney Griner had actually tried to call 11 times over a period of several hours, dialing a number given to her at the States Embassy. United in Moscow, which the couple had been told they would then pass the call to Cherelle Griner in Phoenix. But each time the call went unanswered as the embassy office where the phone rang was apparently unstaffed on Saturday.
“I was distraught. I was hurt. I was done, I was sick of it,” Cherelle Griner told The Associated Press in an interview, recounting how a birthday she had been looking forward to instead passed in tears. “I’m pretty sure I texted the BG agent and said, ‘I don’t want to talk to anyone. It’s going to take me a minute to collect my emotions and tell everyone I don’t I’m not available right now. Because it just knocked me out. I wasn’t well, I’m still not well.
The State Department said Monday that “we deeply regret that Brittney Griner was unable to speak with his wife due to a logistical error.” The department reiterated that it has no higher priority than the safety of Americans abroad and that it remains in regular contact with the families of hostages and wrongful detainees.
For Cherelle Griner, the experience has heightened already simmering frustrations about the US government’s response to his wife’s case. Although US officials have repeatedly said they are working behind the scenes to bring the two-time Olympic gold medalist back from Russia, she said she was “very pissed off” by the snafu, especially since the he call had been scheduled for two weeks and yet no one warned her during that time that it might be logistically impossible because of the weekend.
She added: “I find this unacceptable and I have no confidence in our government at this time. If I can’t trust you to take a call on Saturdays out of office hours how can I make you confidence to negotiate on behalf of my wife to come home?Because that’s a much bigger request than taking a call on Saturday.
Cherelle Griner said a contact in the US government apologized to her for the error. She said she has since learned that the only number Brittney Griner was given to dial usually handles calls from prisoners Monday through Friday, but not on weekends, which is why no one was there to transfer. the call.
“But watch out,” Cherelle Griner said in the interview, “that phone call had been scheduled for almost two weeks — with a weekend date.”
Brittney Griner, a seven-time WNBA All-Star who plays for the Phoenix Mercury, was arrested at a Russian airport on February 17 after authorities said a search of her bag revealed vape cartridges containing cannabis oil.
In May, the State Department designated her as wrongfully detained, placing her case under the supervision of its presidential special envoy for hostage affairs, effectively the government’s chief hostage negotiator. Russian news agency Tass reported last week that his detention had been extended until July 3.
Cherelle Griner said she still hopes to speak or meet with President Joe Biden, but “at this point it’s starting to look like a no.”
So far, Cherelle Griner says she’s had to rely exclusively on others’ assessments of her wife’s condition. Lawyers and consular affairs officials were able to speak with the basketball star, but not his wife.
The day before the call, she fell asleep at 5 p.m. in order to be awake and alert at midnight to receive the scheduled call from Russia to Phoenix which never came.
“It was such a great moment because it would have been the first time I could really tell if she was okay,” Cherelle Griner said, describing it as a “life and death” opportunity to discern how his wife was holding the cut. . “It would have been the first time for me to hear her in real time and really know if she’s okay or if she’s seconds away from no longer existing.”
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Post expires at 5:26pm on Saturday July 2nd, 2022