Brittney Griner again residence in US after Russian prisoner swap

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Brittney Griner returned to the US early Friday, practically 10 months after the basketball star’s detention in Russia made her essentially the most high-profile American jailed overseas and set off a political firestorm.

Griner’s standing as an brazenly homosexual Black lady, her prominence in girls’s basketball and her imprisonment in a rustic the place authorities have been hostile to the LGBTQ group heightened considerations for her and introduced super consideration to the case. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine after her arrest difficult issues additional.

The deal that noticed Griner exchanged for infamous arms vendor Viktor Bout achieved a high objective for President Joe Biden. However the U.S. didn’t win freedom for an additional American, Paul Whelan, who has been jailed for practically 4 years.

Requested if extra such swaps might occur, Russian President Vladimir Putin mentioned Friday that “every thing is feasible,” noting that “compromises have been discovered” to clear the best way for Thursday’s change.

Biden’s authorization to launch Bout, the Russian felon as soon as nicknamed “the Service provider of Demise,” underscored the heightened urgency that his administration confronted to get Griner residence, notably after the latest decision of her prison case on drug fees and her subsequent switch to a penal colony.

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and Phoenix Mercury professional basketball star, was seen getting off a aircraft that landed Friday at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas.

“So blissful to have Brittney again on U.S. soil. Welcome residence BG!” tweeted Roger Carstens, the particular presidential envoy for hostage affairs.

The WNBA star, who additionally performed professional basketball in Russia, was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February after Russian authorities mentioned she was carrying vape canisters with hashish oil. The U.S. State Division declared Griner to be “wrongfully detained” — a cost that Russia has sharply rejected.

Griner pleaded responsible in July however nonetheless confronted trial as a result of admitting guilt in Russia’s judicial system doesn’t mechanically finish a case. She was sentenced to 9 years.

She acknowledged in court docket that she possessed canisters with hashish oil however mentioned she had no prison intent and by chance packed them. Her protection group offered written statements that she had been prescribed hashish to deal with ache.

The Russian Overseas Ministry confirmed Thursday’s swap, saying in an announcement carried by Russian information businesses that the change passed off in Abu Dhabi and Bout had been flown residence.

Biden spoke by cellphone with Griner. U.S. officers mentioned she can be provided specialised medical providers and counseling.

In releasing Bout, the U.S. freed a former Soviet Military lieutenant colonel whom the Justice Division as soon as described as one of many world’s most prolific arms sellers. He was arrested in Thailand in 2008 and extradited to the U.S. in 2010.

Bout was serving a 25-year sentence on fees that he conspired to promote tens of thousands and thousands of {dollars} in weapons that U.S officers mentioned had been for use in opposition to Individuals.


Tucker reported from Washington.

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