Brittney Griner returned to the US following a high-profile prisoner swap with Russia 

Brittney Griner returned to the US following a high-profile prisoner swap with Russia 

Brittney Griner, a basketball star, has returned to the United States after being released in a high-profile prisoner exchange after nearly 10 months in captivity in Russia. Griner was exchanged for renowned Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

Griner was subsequently seen disembarking from the jet as it touched down at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas. The agreement met one of US President Joe Biden’s major priorities, but it failed to liberate another American, Paul Whelan, who has been jailed in Russia for over four years.

Mr. Biden’s authorization to release Bout, the Russian dubbed “the Merchant of Death,” highlighted the urgency with which his administration faced bringing Griner home, especially given the recent resolution of her criminal case on drug charges and her subsequent transfer to a penal colony.

Griner, who formerly played professional basketball in Russia, was detained at an airport when officials said she was carrying cannabis oil vape canisters. Prior to her conviction, the US State Department proclaimed Griner to have been “wrongfully detained,” a charge that Russia has categorically denied.

Griner is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, a Baylor University All-American, and a pro basketball player with the Phoenix Mercury. Her situation as an out gay black woman imprisoned in a country hostile to the LBGTQ community integrated racial, gender, and social factors into her legal saga, bringing unprecedented attention to the population of wrongful detainees.

The Russian foreign ministry acknowledged the transfer, stating in a statement reported by Russian news outlets that it took place in Abu Dhabi and that Bout was flown home. Mr. Biden had talked with Griner on the phone. According to US officials, she would be provided specialized medical care as well as counseling.

By releasing Bout, the United States liberated a former Soviet Army lieutenant colonel characterized by the Justice Department as “one of the world’s most prolific arms dealers.” He was apprehended in Thailand in 2008 and extradited to the United States in 2010.

Bout was serving a 25-year term on allegations of conspiring to sell tens of millions of dollars in weapons to be used against Americans, according to US officials. Griner pled guilty in July after being caught at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February, but she still faced trial since admitting guilt in Russia’s legal system does not immediately conclude a case.

She admitted in court that she had cannabis oil canisters in her possession, but she claimed she had no illegal intent and had mistakenly packed them. Her defense team produced written statements indicating that she had been prescribed cannabis for pain relief.


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