Vladimir Putin’s press secretary disputed the US State Department’s statement that Brittney Griner is being held as a Russian hostage.
Dmitry Peskov told Keir Simmons, an NBC News correspondent, that he “categorically disagrees” with the classification of hostages.
“She violated Russian law, and now she is being persecuted,” Peskov said. “It’s not about being a hostage. There are many American citizens here. They enjoy their freedoms… but you have to obey the laws.”
Griner was arrested on February 17 on charges of transporting cannabis oil in her luggage. The US government reclassified the WNBA star as wrongfully detained in early May.
Russia extended Griner’s extension for the second time last week. She is now under their care until at least July 2.
Griner’s wife, Cherell Griner, told the Associated Press that she has “zero confidence” in the U.S. government, which is negotiating for the safe release of the house after the American embassy in Moscow failed to arrange a scheduled call on Saturday to mark their fourth anniversary.
Peskov, who said that Griner is no different from “hundreds and hundreds of Russian citizens” accused of transporting hashish, did not comment on why she was detained and not banned from entering the country.
According to an NBC News report, he “gave no indication” that they would release her soon.