Pictures of Brittney Griner in Custody Offer Few Clues to Her Well-Being

Photos of the W.N.B.A. star Brittney Griner being led through a courthouse outside Moscow were released this week before her trial on drug charges that is set to begin on Friday, giving the Western world a rare glimpse of her after four months of being detained in Russia.

In some of the photos, a handcuffed Ms. Griner appears worried. She wears a gray T-shirt and round eyeglasses. The wrists of her long arms are cuffed together and then cuffed to a guard’s arm. Some fans described the photos as “heartbreaking.”

Only a few images of Ms. Griner have been released since her arrest in an airport near Moscow on Feb. 17, a week before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and they have been scrutinized for clues about her mental and physical health. She was detained as she passed through security after officials said they had found vape cartridges with traces of hashish oil in her luggage. If convicted, she faces a sentence of up to 10 years at a penal colony.

Her detention and trial has been widely seen in the West as retribution for American support for Ukraine in the war with Russia. Her wife, Cherelle Griner, has only been able to communicate with Brittney Griner through letters.

After four months of the pair’s not being able to speak to each other, Russian officials approved a phone call between them for June 18, but the two were unable to connect because the phone line at the U.S. Embassy in Russia was not staffed.

“She’s telling me she’s OK,” Ms. Griner’s wife said in a recent radio interview with the Rev. Al Sharpton. Cherelle Griner said Brittney Griner had vowed, “I won’t let them break me.”

But Brittney Griner is struggling, her wife said. “She’s a human, she’s there terrified, she’s there alone,” Cherelle Griner said. “It’s not just that she can’t speak to her loved ones. She can’t speak to anyone because she doesn’t speak the language. It’s inhumane on all types of levels.”

The photographs of Ms. Griner released on Monday were accompanied by a video in which Ms. Griner, flanked by four police officers and a dog, walks down a hall and then up a flight of stairs.

Though handcuffed, she towers above her Russian guards and moves with confidence. At one point she purses her lips together and shakes her head from side to side, as if in disbelief.

The images released Monday were the first to appear since May 13, when an Associated Press photographer took a picture of Ms. Griner leaving a courtroom in Khimki, Russia. She wore an orange sweatshirt with an Air Jordan logo on the sleeve. The hood was pulled over her bowed head so that her face was not visible. She was handcuffed and chained to a guard behind her. Two more guards surround her.

That photo prompted questions in the United States about Ms. Griner’s physical and emotional well-being.

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