After discussions, American basketball player Brittney Griner was freed from a Russian jail in exchange for a weapons dealer. Griner was detained on narcotics accusations in Russia.
On Wednesday, US basketball star Brittney Griner was released in a prisoner swap with Russia’s Viktor Bout, a former arms dealer. According to a joint UAE-Saudi statement, the release of the US basketball player was facilitated by the UAE president and the Saudi crown prince.
A US official reported that Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris called Griner from the Oval Office, and that the call included Griner’s wife, Cherelle. The White House also shared a snapshot of the phone call. Biden stated in a White House address immediately after Griner’s release that he was “happy to be able to report Brittney is in excellent spirits” and was looking forward to going home.
In exchange for Griner’s release, President Obama ordered that renowned arms dealer Victor Bout be released and returned to Russia. Bout’s 25-year federal prison term was commuted when Biden signed the commuting order. Griner-for-Bout swap sends retired U.S. Marine Paul Whelan is being held in Russia. False terms, has been held in Russian captivity for over four years.
“We haven’t forgotten about Paul Whelan,” Biden said, adding that “we will never give up” on getting him out.
Meanwhile, Brittney Griner’s brother, 52, hailed the Biden administration for its successful efforts to liberate her sister. He, on the other hand, described his brother’s continuing arrest as a “catastrophe.”
“I am very relieved that Brittney Griner is on her way home,” remarked David Whelan. “As a relative of a Russian detainee, I can only imagine how glad she will be to be reunited with her loved ones in time for Christmas.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also applauded Brittney Griner’s release from Russian imprisonment and stated that the administration will continue efforts to return Paul Whelan and other prisoners to the United States.
“I am thankful to the State Department personnel as well as our partners throughout the government who fought relentlessly to achieve her release.” I also congratulate Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens and his whole team for escorting Brittney back to the United States.”
Griner, 32, was detained on February 17 as a member of the Women’s National Basketball Association’s Phoenix Mercury. Negotiations to win her release were hampered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24th, and the resulting deterioration of relations between Washington and Moscow. Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was detained at a Moscow airport after vape cartridges carrying cannabis oil, which is illegal in Russia, were discovered in her luggage.
On August 4, she was sentenced to nine years in a prison colony on narcotics possession and smuggling charges. Griner had pled guilty, admitting she had committed a “honest mistake” and had not intended to breach the law.She was transferred to a correctional colony in Mordovia, Russia, to fulfil her jail sentence.
While she is on her way, several of her teammates are tweeting to welcome her. This is what they wrote:
“My best buddy is on his way home!!!! I love you BG!!!” tweeted Emma Cannon, who plays for the Indiana Fever and previously played for Griner’s Phoenix Mercury.
“Thank you to everyone who helped keep Brittney Griner’s name alive,” her Phoenix Mercury teammate Brianna Turner said on Twitter.
The WNBA and its male equivalent, the National Basketball Association (NBA), had both campaigned for the eight-time All-release. Star’s
“BG is FREE!!! 294 days and she is returning home!!!” tweeted Seattle Storm WNBA champion and finals MVP Breanna Stewart, who was among the league’s vociferous supporters for her release.
The Russian foreign ministry claimed it had been negotiating Bout’s release with Washington for “a long time,” but that the US had first “refused conversation” on include him in any trade.
The statement said, “the Russian Federation has continued to vigorously endeavour to rescue our colleague.” “The Russian national has been deported to Russia.”
Bout’s arms trafficking exploits were inspired in part on the 2005 film “Lord of War,” starring Nicolas Cage, and he has been the topic of multiple books and TV series.
When asked about Bout’s release, a senior US defence official stated that “there is a risk that he will return to conducting the same sort of job that he has done in the past.”