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WNBA’s Griner’s wife tells AP a scheduled call never took place

WASHINGTON – WNBA star Brittney Griner tried nearly a dozen times to call her wife through the American Embassy in Russia on Saturday, the couple’s fourth wedding anniversary, but they never got through because the phone line at the embassy was idle, said Cherelle Griner on Monday.

The couple have not spoken on the phone in the four months since Griner’s arrest in Russia, where she remains detained. That should have changed on Saturday, when a long-awaited call was finally set to take place after the Russian government received approval. But the day came and went without any contact, and Cherelle Griner agonized over what had gone wrong and suspected, at least at first, that the Russian authorities had thwarted the call.

On Monday, she said she learned a more shocking truth from her wife’s lawyers: Brittney Griner had attempted to call 11 times over a period of several hours using a number given to her at the US Embassy in Moscow, which said the couple would then put the call through to Cherelle Griner in Phoenix. But each time the call went unanswered because the counter in the embassy where the phone rang was apparently unmanned on Saturday.

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“I was disturbed. I was injured. I was done, fed up,” Cherelle Griner said in an interview with The Associated Press, recounting how an anniversary she had been eagerly awaiting was spent in tears instead. “I’m pretty sure I texted the agent at BG and I was like, ‘I don’t want to speak to anyone. I’m going to take a minute to organize my feelings and just tell everyone that I’m not available right now. Because it just blew my mind. I wasn’t well, I’m still not well.”

The State Department said Monday, “We deeply regret that due to a logistical error, Brittney Griner was unable to speak to her wife.” The department reiterated that its priority is no higher than the safety of Americans abroad and that it is in regular contact with families of hostages and unlawfully detained.

For Cherelle Griner, the experience added to already smoldering frustrations over the US government’s response to her wife’s case. Although US officials have repeatedly said they are working behind the scenes to bring the two-time Olympic gold medalist home from Russia, she said she was “very pissed” about the snafu, especially since the call has been on the agenda for two weeks and but nobody warned them during that time that it might be logistically impossible because of the weekend.

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She added: “I find it unacceptable and I have no faith in our government at the moment. If I can’t trust you to take an after hours Saturday call, how can I trust you to actually negotiate on my wife’s behalf to get home? Because that’s a much bigger request than getting a Saturday call.”

Cherelle Griner said a US government contact apologized to her for the mistake. She said she has since learned that the one number Brittney Griner was given to dial, usually Monday through Friday but not weekends, handles calls from prisoners, so no one was there to transfer the call.

“But mind you,” Cherelle Griner said in the interview, “this call was scheduled for almost two weeks — with a weekend appointment.”

Brittney Griner, a seven-time WNBA All-Star who plays for Phoenix Mercury, was arrested at a Russian airport on February 17 after authorities there said a search of her bag found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil.

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That The US State Department in May described them as wrongly detained, who is placing her case under the supervision of the President’s special envoy for hostage affairs, effectively the government’s chief hostage negotiator. This was reported by the Russian state news agency Tass last week that her detention had been extended to July 3.

Cherelle Griner said she still hopes to speak to or meet with President Joe Biden, but “at this point it’s starting to feel like a no.”

Cherelle Griner says she has only had to rely on other people’s assessments of her wife’s condition. Lawyers and consular affairs officials have been able to speak to the basketball star, but her wife has not.

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The night before the call, she went to sleep at 5 p.m. so that she would be up and up at midnight to receive the expected call from Russia to Phoenix, which never came.

“That was such a big moment because for the first time I could really tell if she’s okay,” Cherelle Griner said, describing it as a “life-or-death” opportunity to realize how her wife is actually went “This would have been the first time for me to actually hear her in real time and really know if she’s alright or if she’s just seconds away from dying.”

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Feinberg reported from New York. Associated Press writer Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/06/20/wife-of-wnbas-griner-tells-ap-scheduled-call-never-happened/ WNBA’s Griner’s wife tells AP a scheduled call never took place

Sarah Y. Kim

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