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‘Thanks for fighting to get me home’

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‘Thanks for fighting to get me home’

Photograph: Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters

Brittney Griner thanked her supporters from a Russian prison where the detained basketball athlete spent her 32nd birthday on Tuesday.

In a statement released by her lawyers and reported by CNN, Griner said: “Thank you everyone for fighting so hard to get me home. All the support and love are definitely helping me.”

In February, Griner was arrested at a Moscow airport after authorities found vape canisters containing cannabis oil – for which she had a doctor’s recommendation – in her bags. The arrest of the Phoenix Mercury star quickly made headlines as it came amid heightened US-Russia tensions ahead of Moscow sending its forces into Ukraine a week later.

Griner has since been detained in Russia and was sentenced to nine years in prison in September after a Russian court convicted her on drug charges.

Griner’s detention has spurred a nationwide campaign led by her family, teammates and fans as they push Joe Biden to secure her release.

On Tuesday, the Women’s National Basketball Association tweeted: “Happy Birthday Brittney Griner, we will not forget about you and we will not stop fighting for you. The W won’t be the same until you’re home #WeAreBG.”

Breanna Stewart, a WNBA player for the Seattle Storm, wrote: “We are not a family without #BrittneyGriner. It’s time to BRING HER HOME. #WeAreBG. Today marks eight months of her Wrongful Detention. She needs her family now more than ever. BG – we have not forgotten you, and we will not rest until you’re home.”

Similarly, NBA champion Stephen Curry made an impassioned plea in support of Griner yesterday at the Golden State Warriors’ championship ring ceremony.

“We want to continue to use our platform and the opportunity to shout out a very special member of the basketball community,” Curry said. “Brittney Griner’s birthday is today, she’s 32 years old.”

“We want to continue to let her name be known and we pray … We hope that she comes home soon, that everybody’s doing their part to get her home,” he added.

Despite the pleas, an aide to Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, said on Sunday that Griner’s release is not a priority for Russia, instead claiming that Biden is mostly concerned about good publicity ahead of the US midterm elections.

“In this tense situation, I think that he is thinking first and foremost about the upcoming midterm elections so he keeps emphasizing the need to bring back home the basketball player who was detained for drug smuggling. However, it’s not the main issue that we are concerned about,” Yury Ushakov said in an interview with Rossiya-1.

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