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merican basketball star Brittney Griner has gone on trial in Russia charged with illegal cannabis possession.

The three-time WNBA league champion was seen arriving handcuffed at a court in the town of Khimki, near Moscow on Friday afternoon.

If charged, she faces up to ten years in a Russian prison.

Ms Griner, 31, was told at the hearing that she was being charged with intentionally importing narcotics into Russia. She spoke only to confirm that she understood the charges.

The basketball star was arrested at a Moscow airport in February, allegedly with vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage.

The case comes amid heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington over the conflict in Ukraine.

US authorities claim she has been detained wrongfully and have called for her release.

Three employees of the US embassy, including deputy chief of mission Elizabeth Rood, were present in the courtroom. Ms Griner sat in the defendant’s cage with a plastic bag of cookies and a bottle of mineral water.

Lawyer Alexander Boykov told Reuters that Ms Griner “was a bit worried because she has the trial and the sentencing in the close future”.

“She is a tough lady. I think that she will manage,” he added.

Ms Rood said the US would work hard to bring her home, adding: “She asked me to convey that she is in good spirits and is keeping up the faith.”

Asked about the case, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied it was politically motivated.

“I can only operate with known facts, and the facts indicate that the eminent athlete was detained with illegal drugs that contained narcotic substances. There are articles in Russian legislation that provide for punishment for such crimes,” he told reporters.

“Only the court can pass a verdict.”

Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, told CNN in an interview on Thursday that she hoped for a meeting with President Joe Biden, saying: “I would love for him to tell me he cares.”

Ms Griner played as a centre for the Phoenix Mercury and previously played for UMMC Ekaterinburg in the Russian Women’s Basketball Premier League.

The judge set the next hearing for July 7.

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