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Russia extends Brittney Griner's detention again as teammates push for release

Russia extended WNBA star Brittney Griner's detention until at least July 2, state news agency Tass reported Tuesday. Griner has been in Russian custody since February, when she was arrested at a Moscow airport and accused of smuggling cannabis oil in her luggage. 

Griner's detention has repeatedly been extended. A Russian court ruled in March that her pre-trial detention would be extended until May 19. It was then extended again until mid-June. 

State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters Tuesday that the U.S. learned of the extension through Russian state media. 

"Our position for some time on this has been very clear — Brittney Griner should not be detained. She should not be detained for a single day longer," Price said. 

In May, the State Department said it determined the Phoenix Mercury center, who played in Russia during the WNBA off-season, was wrongfully detained. 

"With this determination, the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs will lead the interagency team for securing Brittney Griner's release," the State Department said in a statement last month. 

State Department officials met with Griner's teammates and coaches on Monday to discuss the status of her detention, the Phoenix Mercury said. Also at the meeting were representatives from the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs and a senior representative from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Price said. 

"We are on day 116 since BG has been wrongfully detained," Mercury coach Vanessa Nygaard said in a statement shared on the team's Twitter. "It was great to hear from the State Department that we should continue to amplify that message and that and that we should continue to press all those who have any influence or power to help bring BG home." 

Forward Brianna Turner said State Department officials "encouraged us to keep speaking her name, to keep holding them accountable to bring BG back home as soon as possible." 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Griner's wife, Cherelle Griner, on Saturday, reiterating that securing Griner's release is a priority, that her case has his full attention, and that his team is working on it day and night, according to a senior State Department official.

Cherelle has called on President Joe Biden to do whatever is necessary to secure her wife's release. 

"I just keep hearing that he has the power. She's a political pawn," Cherelle said in an interview with "Good Morning America" last month. "So if they're holding her because they want you to do something, then I want you to do it."

Camilla Schick contributed reporting.

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