Russia frees US basketball star Brittney Griner in prisoner swap


Brittney Griner, the US basketball player, has been released by Russia following a swap deal that sends Viktor Bout, an arms trafficker, the other way.


President Joe Biden confirmed the release of Griner in a press briefing at the White House on Thursday.


He added that the 33-year-old Phoenix Mercury’s star is safe and currently returning home on a plane from the United Arab Emirates, where the exchange took place.

“She’s safe, she’s on a plane, she’s on her way home,” Biden said.


“I’m glad to say Brittney’s in good spirits… she needs time and space to recover.”


Viktor Bout was extradited to the US from Thailand in 2010

Photo credit: Reuters

Griner was in Russia to play in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) offseason when she was arrested at a Moscow airport in February for possessing cannabis oil.


Possession of cannabis is illegal in Russia, and despite the Basketball player’s plea that her usage of the substance was medically prescribed, she was sentenced to nine years imprisonment and sent to a penal colony.


In November, Russia announced a swap deal for the release of Griner and Paul Whelan, a US ex-marine, with Bout, a Russian felon in America once nicknamed “the Merchant of Death.”


Whelan is however yet to be released by Russia as part of the deal.


Griner is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and an openly gay Black woman.

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