Photos of WNBA star Brittney Griner ushering through a courthouse outside Moscow were released this week ahead of her drug charges trial that begins Friday, giving the western world a rare glimpse of her after four months of being held in Russia.
In some photos, a handcuffed Mrs. Griner appears concerned. She is wearing a gray T-shirt and round glasses. The wrists of her long arms are cuffed together and then cuffed to the arm of a guard. Some fans described the photos as “heartbreaking.”
Only a few images of Ms Griner have been released since her arrest at an airport near Moscow on Feb. 17, a week before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and they have been examined for evidence of her mental and physical health. She was detained as she walked through security after officials said they found vape cartridges with traces of hash oil in her luggage. If convicted, she faces up to 10 years in prison in a penal colony.
Her detention and trial are widely seen in the West as retaliation for US support for Ukraine in the war with Russia. Her wife, Cherelle Griner, has only been able to communicate with Brittney Griner through letters.
After the couple were unable to talk to each other for four months, Russian officials approved a phone call between them for June 18, but the two were unable to connect because the phone line at the US embassy in Russia was unmanned.
“She tells me she’s all right,” Mrs. Griner’s wife said in a recent radio interview with Reverend Al Sharpton. Cherelle Griner said Brittney Griner swore, “I won’t let them break me.”
But Brittney Griner is having a hard time, her wife said. “She’s human, she’s terrified there, she’s alone there,” Cherelle Griner said. “It’s not just that she can’t talk to her loved ones. She can’t talk to anyone because she doesn’t speak the language. It’s inhumane on all kinds of levels.”
The photos of Ms. Griner released Monday were accompanied by a video of Ms. Griner, flanked by four police officers and a dog, walking down a hallway and then up a flight of stairs.
Though handcuffed, she towers over her Russian guards and moves confidently. At one point she purses her lips and shakes her head from side to side, as if in disbelief.
The images released Monday were the first to surface since May 13, when an Associated Press photographer captured a photo of Ms. Griner exiting a courtroom in Khimki, Russia. She wore an orange sweatshirt with an Air Jordan logo on the sleeve. The hood was pulled over her bowed head so that her face was not visible. She was handcuffed and chained to a guard behind her. Two more guards surround her.
That photo raised questions in the United States about Ms. Griner’s physical and emotional well-being.