Brittney Griner released by Russia in prisoner swap

Mildred Europa Taylor December 08, 2022
WNBA star Brittney Griner was sentenced to prison by a Russian court -- Photo Credit: Lorie Shaull

WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner, who had been detained since February in Russian prisons on drug smuggling charges, was released Thursday. This followed a one-for-one prisoner swap for international arms dealer Viktor Bout, U.S. officials told CBS News.

Last week, U.S. President Joe Biden approved the exchange agreement negotiated with Moscow some weeks ago. “Moments ago I spoke to Brittney Griner,” Biden tweeted. “She is safe. She is on a plane. She is on her way home.”

Bout has returned home to Russia, the country’s state media RIA Novosti reported on Thursday. The prisoner exchange with Griner was “completed successfully at Abu Dhabi Airport” on Thursday, it added.

Bout, a former Soviet military officer, was convicted of conspiring to kill Americans and began his 25-year sentence a decade ago in the U.S. Nicknamed the “Merchant of Death”, Bout was also accused of acquiring and exporting anti-aircraft missiles, and giving material support to a terrorist organization, according to CNN.

Griner was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on February 17 for allegedly possessing vaporizer cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage which she reportedly said was used to treat a medical condition. The U.S. basketball star was sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony.

Since 2015, the two-time Olympic champion has been playing for the Russian women’s basketball team UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason. The 31-year-old was also part of other WNBA stars who were set to feature for teams in Russia as well as Ukraine over the course of the winter season, the New York Post reported.

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