Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner freed in prisoner swap with Russia

Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner was released from prison in Russia and on her way home on Thursday, President Joe Biden said at the White House.
The United States has agreed to release imprisoned Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, Biden said, in a prisoner exchange that ends nearly 10 months in detention for Griner.
“A few moments ago I spoke to Britney Grind. She is safe. She’s on a plane. She’s on her way back,” Biden said. “Detained in intolerable circumstances, Brittney will soon be back in the arms of her loved ones and she should have been there all along. It is a day that we have been working towards for a long time. We never stopped pressing for his release. It took painstaking and intense negotiations.”
From Russia, Griner, 32, landed in the United Arab Emirates, where she boarded a plane for the United States.
“The last few months have been hell for Brittney and (his wife) Cherelle,” Biden said. “She is relieved to finally return home. The fact remains that she lost months of her life. She deserves space, privacy and time with loved ones to recover and heal.”
A two-time Olympic gold medalist and active WNBA player with the Phoenix Mercury, grinning was arrested at an airport near Moscow on February 17. She admitted in court to bringing marijuana vape cartridges in her luggage, as prescribed by her doctor.
“She wrote to me in July asking for no special treatment,” Biden said. “She asked for a simple quote: ‘Please don’t forget me and the other American detainees. Please do whatever you can to bring us home.’ We never forgot Brittney.”
Griner was convicted of criminal drug possession and sentenced to more than nine years in prison. Last month, Russian officials informed Griner’s lawyer that she had been moved to a penal colony, where forced shifts for prisoners typically last between 12 and 14 hours a day.
The deal to release Griner had been negotiated over several months. Russia’s deputy foreign minister claimed there had been renewed “activity” in negotiations to free Griner a week before Thanksgiving. The United States has publicly denied that those talks were active.
In the first public revelations about the negotiations, US officials insisted on the release of Michigan company security officer Paul Whelan, who has been jailed since December 2018 in Russia for espionage. But the White House described Thursday’s confirmed prisoner swap as “one for one,” Bout for Griner.
Bout is a former Soviet Army lieutenant who was sentenced in 2012 to 25 years for conspiring to sell tens of millions of dollars worth of weapons that US officials say were used against Americans.
Flanked by Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris at the White House, a grateful Cherelle Griner thanked their administration for their efforts and pledged to work in the future to help bring wrongfully detained prisoners home.
“BG is not here to say that, but I will be happy to speak on his behalf and say that BG and I will remain committed to ensuring that every American comes home, including Paul, whose family is in our hearts today,” she said. “…We understand that there are still people here who are enduring what I have endured for the past nine months of missing their loved ones dearly.”
Words of support for Griner began circulating on Twitter Thursday morning from fellow WNBA players.
Seattle Storm star Breanna Stewart said: “BG is FREE!!! 294 days and she’s coming home!!!”
The 2022 WNBA season begins May 19.


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