Footage of Brittney Griner’s release from Russian custody was released by the European nation’s state media on Thursday. The WNBA star had been detained since February in Russian prisons on drug smuggling charges. She was eventually released in a one-for-one prisoner swap for Russian international arms dealer Viktor Bout, U.S. officials told CBS News.
The prisoner exchange took place at an airport in the United Arab Emirates, The New York Times reported. In the video of what took place at the airport, Griner is seen in the company of three other men as they approach Bout and another man.
Bout and one of the men then shake hands and embrace before another man also shakes the formerly convicted arms dealer’s hand. Griner, who appears to be without her signature dreadlocks, is later seen walking toward another group of people.
In another video, the WNBA All-Star is seen having a conversation with an unidentified individual while on board a plane. “What’s your mood?” the person asks her.
“Happy,” she responds. And when Griner is asked if she knows where she’s headed, she says no. She is then told she’s going back home. “Everything will be fine,” the person tells her.
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 32-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.