Brittney Griner reveals she contemplated suicide while in Russian jail: ‘I felt like leaving here so badly’

Francis Akhalbey May 02, 2024
Brittney Griner was held in a Russian jail in 2022 -- Photo Credit: Lorie Shaull

In her first interview about her conviction in Russia on drug smuggling charges, WNBA star Brittney Griner revealed she contemplated suicide during the first few weeks of her detention in the European nation.

According to The Associated Press, Griner, 33, spoke about her ordeal during an interview with ABC News’ Robin Roberts. As previously reported by Face2Face Africa, the Phoenix Mercury star was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on February 17, 2022, for allegedly possessing vaporizer cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage which she reportedly said was used to treat a medical condition. She was later sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony.

“I wanted to take my life more than once in the first weeks,” Griner revealed in the interview that was aired on Wednesday. “I felt like leaving here so badly.”

The 33-year-old said she later had a change of mind partly because she feared Russian authorities would opt against repatriating her body to her family. Griner was eventually released in December 2022 following a one-for-one prisoner swap for international arms dealer Viktor Bout, U.S. officials told CBS News at the time.

But before her release, Griner revealed she was made to write Russian President Vladimir Putin an apology and gratitude letter. “They made me write this letter. It was in Russian,” she recalled.

“I had to ask for forgiveness and thanks from their so-called great leader. I didn’t want to do it, but at the same time I wanted to come home.”

Following her release, a senior U.S. official told NBC News that the Biden administration had wanted both Griner and her compatriot Paul Whelan to be released in the prisoner swap deal with Moscow. 

Griner said she was disappointed that wasn’t the case when she boarded the plane after her release. Whelan, who is a businessman and a former marine, has been detained in Russia since 2018 on espionage charges.

“I walked on and didn’t see him, maybe he’s next. Maybe they will bring him next,” she said, per The Associated Press. “They closed the door and I was like, are you serious? You’re not going to let this man come home now.”

Griner granted the interview ahead of the May 7 release of her Coming Home memoir.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: May 2, 2024


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