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Brittney Griner Released in Prisoner Swap

The WNBA star imprisoned for months in Russia for cannabis oil possession is on her way home after the Biden administration agreed to an exchange of arms trafficker Viktor Bout for Griner.




Brittney Griner is seen playing for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury in 2019. Griner was released from Russian prison on Dec. 8, 2022 as part of a prisoner exchange. PHOTO CREDIT: LORIE SHAULL/WIKI COMMONS

Brittney Griner is coming home. The WNBA star has been released from a Russian penal colony as part of a prisoner swap orchestrated by the Biden administration and was on her way back to the United States on Thursday, according to administration officials.

Russia received convicted Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout in exchange for the release of Griner. Negotiations for an exchange that also included Paul Whelan, an ex-U.S. Marine convicted of spying in Russia, fizzled and the Russians would only agree to exchange Griner for Bout, according to media reports.

Griner was arrested for possession of illegal hash oil vape cartridges in Moscow more than nine months ago. She was tried and convicted in August after pleading guilty and sentenced to nine years imprisonment. The two-time Olympic gold medalist began serving her sentence last month in a Russian penal colony about 200 miles east of Moscow.

U.S. officials had been working on a prisoner exchange deal with Russia for months, according to the Biden administration, which briefed media on the prisoner exchange. A deal was struck last week and the exchange executed on Thursday.

Russian customs agents arrested the seven-time WNBA all-star on Feb. 17 at Sheremetyevo International Airport, just days before Russia launched its invasion of neighboring Ukraine. Customs officials said they found cannabis oil vape cartridges in Griner’s belongings. Cannabis is classified as an illegal narcotic in Russia.

Griner was able to confer with U.S. officials shortly after her arrest but had been isolated from contact with the outside world for months before her release


Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, “was in the Oval Office with Biden on Thursday morning and the two were able to speak with her by phone,” NBC News reported.



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