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U.S. classifies Brittney Griner as 'wrongfully detained' by Russia in 'significant shift'

In a shift, the United States is reportedly now classifying Brittney Griner as being "wrongfully detained" in Russia.

An official from the State Department confirmed to ESPN on Tuesday the U.S. has "determined that the Russian Federation has wrongfully detained" the WNBA star.

"With this determination, the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens will lead the interagency team for securing Brittney Griner's release," the official said.

Griner was arrested at the airport in Russia in February after cannabis vape cartridges were allegedly found in her suitcase. She has remained detained since then, and in March, her detention was extended for another two months.

Initially, officials were concerned that the U.S. was denied consular access to Griner, though this was later granted. State Department spokesperson Ned Price told CNN in March the U.S. was "able to check" on her and found that she is in "good condition." 

Classifying Griner as being wrongfully detained marked a "significant shift," which indicates that the U.S. "will no longer wait for Griner's case to play out through the Russian legal system and will seek to negotiate her return," ESPN wrote. According to the report, Bill Richardson, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and international hostage negotiator, is also now working on Griner's case. 

"Brittney has been detained for 75 days and our expectation is that the White House do whatever is necessary to bring her home," Griner's agent told ESPN.