Griner, who has been detained but not formally charged, was arrested on February 17 for allegedly carrying cannabis cartridges in her luggage after flying from New York to Moscow.
The WNBA champion and seven-time All-Star plays for UMMC Ekaterinburg of the Russian Premier League during the WNBA offseason.
Reclassifying Griner’s case allows the U.S. government to negotiate her immediate return instead of waiting for the Russian legal system to play itself out. It also allows Griner’s family, friends, and Congress to shed light on her situation.
Griner will also be supported by Bill Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
There are reasons to be optimistic for Griner’s potential return following the April release of former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed, who had been held in Russia since 2019. Reed’s release represents open diplomatic relations between Russia and the U.S., despite the former’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
Griner is scheduled for a hearing on May 19, and no reason has been provided as to why her situation has been reclassified by government officials.