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Brittney Griner reveals suicidal thoughts after Russia arrest, forced to write letter to Putin

This story discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please contact the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

WNBA star Brittney Griner said she wanted to die by suicide when she first was arrested and put into a Russian jail in 2022 in an interview that aired on Wednesday.

Griner spoke to ABC News’ Robin Roberts and talked at length about her experience in Russia when she was arrested on drug smuggling charges. 

Previous clips of the interview showed Griner blaming a “mental lapse” for having cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage, and she detailed what it was like staying in the prison system for over 10 months.

“I wanted to take my life more than once in the first weeks,” the Phoenix Mercury star said. “I felt like leaving here so badly.”

She said she decided not to do it because she was afraid the Russian authorities would not release her body to her family.

Griner said that before she was released in an exchange with convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, she was forced to write a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Brittney Griner and Robin Roberts


“They made me write this letter. It was in Russian,” she said. “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.”

Griner also said she was disappointed that Paul Whelan, another American detained in Russia, was not included in the trade.

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

Brittney Griner in April 2023

Griner returned to the Mercury for the 2023 season and was named an All-Star.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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