Detained WNBA Star, Britney Griner Freed By Russia In Prisoner Swap For Arms Dealer Viktor Bout (Details)

Brittney Griner has been released from a Russian penal colony after the Biden White House was able to reach a deal with the Kremlin on a prisoner swap, according to reports.

She’s on a plane back to the United States as of Thursday morning, the White House publicly confirmed. President Joe Biden said she would be back in 24 hours.


Griner, the WNBA star imprisoned on marijuana-related drug charges in Russia, will be returned to the US in exchange for arms dealer Viktor Bout.


The negotiations were reportedly mediated by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the United Arab Emirates’ President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, according to Arab News.



A senior administration official would not comment directly on MBS’s role but said the U.S. will ‘continue to lean on partners around the world’ to secure the release of unjustly detailed Americans.



The swap happened at Abu Dhabi airport, where Griner and Bout had to walked past each other to reach their respective parties on the airport tarmac, Russian state media reports.



The official said Griner was ‘all smiles’ on the tarmac as she approached the American delegation.



The 32-year-old Griner was facing nine years in a Russian penal colony, where she was expected to toil in sweatshop conditions while sewing for 12 hours or more per day.


Addressing the nation from the White House on Thursday morning, the president said Griner was ‘in good spirits’ while returning home after undergoing ‘intolerable’ circumstances in Russian custody.



‘Brittney is an incomparable athlete, a two time Olympic gold medalist for Team USA. She endured mistreatment at a show trial in Russia with characteristic grit and incredible dignity. She represents the best America the best about America,’ Biden said.


Biden spoke with Griner on the phone Thursday, along with her wife Cherelle, who was in the Oval Office for the occasion.


Biden’s authorization to release a Russian felon once nicknamed ‘the Merchant of Death’ underscored the escalating pressure that his administration faced to get Griner home, particularly after the recent resolution of her criminal case and her subsequent transfer to a penal colony.


The one-for-one swap was a surprise given that U.S. officials had for months expressed their determination to bring home both Griner and Paul Whelan, a Michigan corporate security executive jailed in Russia since December 2018 on espionage charges that his family and the U.S. government has said are baseless.

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