American basketball star Brittney Griner testified in a Russian court on Wednesday, in a case that made her an unlikely pawn in a diplomatic tussle between Russia and the United States, as the war in Ukraine has created the deepest rift between the two superpowers since the end of the Cold War.
Mrs. Griner had her the dolls chained in front of her as she was led into the courtroomflanked by a group of Russian security agents, including some wearing bulletproof vests and their faces covered by balaclavas.
The tense atmosphere in court reflected the tense geopolitical moment. Washington continues to send weapons to the Ukrainian military and has imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia, and even the decades-long partnership in outer space appears to be ending as Moscow announced it would abandon the International Space Station after its current commitment expires at the end. of 2024.
Russian authorities detained Ms. Griner, 31, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who plays for the Phoenix Mercury, about a week before President Vladimir V. Putin’s forces invaded Ukraine in February. Russia accused her of having two cartridges of hashish oil in her luggage when she arrived at an airport near Moscow. Russia did not make her arrest public until the invasion began.
Ms. Griner had been traveling to Russia to play for a team in Yekaterinburg, about 900 miles east of Moscow, during the WNBA offseason. She was charged with intentionally smuggling the vape cartridges, violating Russian laws prohibiting the importation of narcotics.
He now faces a possible 10-year sentence.
Ms. Griner pleaded guilty this month, saying she had made a mistake and inadvertently brought a banned substance into Russia because she had packed in a hurry. In the Russian justice system, trials continue even when defendants plead guilty. Ms. Griner’s attorneys have said they hope her guilty plea will make the court more lenient.
On Wednesday, her defense team continued to present evidence that she did not intend to break the law.
They argued that she had not intended to smuggle drugs into Russia and that, like many other international athletes, she had used cannabis to help relieve pain from injuries. They also presented a medical note from Ms. Griner’s doctor recommending cannabis to help relieve chronic pain.