US basketball star Brittney Griner pleaded guilty Thursday to drug smuggling charges in a Russian court but denied intending to break the law in a case that has further inflamed tensions between Moscow and Washington.
The two-time Olympic gold medallist and WNBA champion, detained days before Russia sent troops to Ukraine, faces up to a decade behind bars for bringing vape cartridges with cannabis oil into the country.
The 31-year-old basketball star told a court in the town of Khimki outside Moscow that she “would like to plead guilty” to all the charges, but stressed she had “no intention” of breaking any Russian law.
“I was in a rush packing. And the cartridges accidentally ended up in my bag.”
The athlete, who is six-foot-nine inches tall, wore a red T-shirt and matching trousers. She walked into the courtroom with her tattooed arms handcuffed to a Russian guard.
Her lawyer Alexander Boykov called for “as soft a sentence as possible”.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that US embassy officials attended Griner’s trial and delivered to her a letter from US President Joe Biden.