Russia has barred the U.S. Embassy from visiting WNBA star Brittney Griner, who has been detained in the country since February, the embassy said Tuesday.

Russia's latest block was the third time the country refused to allow U.S. officials to visit Griner in a single month. The athlete's detainment was extended an extra 30 days last week.


“#AMBSullivan:  For the third time in a month, Russian authorities have denied an Embassy visit to detained U.S. citizen Brittney Griner. This is unacceptable. We call on @mfa_russia to provide timely consular access, in line with Russia’s intl & bilateral obligations,” the U.S. Embassy in Moscow tweeted.

Griner was detained in Russia after officials allegedly found marijuana vape cartridges in her luggage. Griner was in Russia to play basketball with the Russian Premier League team UMMC Ekaterinburg. Several WNBA players play in Russia to make additional money during the WNBA offseason. Russian authorities have accused Griner of carrying illegal substances, which is punishable in Russia with a sentence of up to 10 years.

The State Department called for Griner's release earlier this month, claiming that the basketball star has been "wrongfully detained." The new classification makes the two-time Olympic gold medal winner's release a higher priority as the United States and Russia face mounting tensions over the latter's invasion of Ukraine.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Griner's wife, Cherelle, on Tuesday and reassured her that getting Griner home was still a top priority for the department, with employees working around the clock to get her released.

“Our message across the board for Americans who are detained in Russia is that we expect, consistent with the Vienna Convention, to have regular and consistent access to Americans who are detained, including those Americans who are in pretrial detention,” Price said at a State Department briefing last week.


Another American, Marine veteran Paul Whelan, is currently being held in Russia. Whelan was arrested in 2018 on accusations that he was a spy. Trevor Reed, another Marine veteran, was detained in Russia in 2019 but was released in a prisoner swap last month.

A spokesperson for the State Department said the department has been in contact with all families of people who have been wrongfully detained or held hostage abroad.