NEW YORK (CelebrityAccess) – WNBA star Brittney Griner has been released from Russian detention in a prisoner swap for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, according to a report by CNN.
Moments ago, I spoke to Brittney Griner.
She is safe.
She is on a plane.
She is on her way home. pic.twitter.com/FmHgfzrcDT
— President Biden (@POTUS) December 8, 2022
Griner is now in the custody of officials from America, and President Joe Biden is scheduled to speak on the matter at 8:45 am EST. According to a report from NBC News, the Biden administration negotiated her release. The prisoner trade was signed off in the United Arab Emirates by President Biden.
However, the arrangement leaves Paul Whelan, an American security executive, and ex-Marine, still behind bars in Russia. Russian authorities took Whelan into custody in December 2018 on charges of spying.
Griner’s return to American soil will end an almost year-long case that began in February when she was detained at Moscow airport after authorities allege they found vape canisters with cannabis oil in her luggage – which ended in her being jailed on drug charges.
The 32-year-old Phoenix Mercury WNBA player and Whelan were part of negotiations between the Biden administration and Putin to bring the two Americans back home amid Russia’s war with Ukraine. She began serving a nine-year sentence at a Russian penal colony in November.
As Griner’s trial neared its end in August, it was reported that the US put a prisoner swap offer on the table for Moscow to consider. Russia called for “quiet diplomacy” but said it was ready to discuss a potential arrangement after her sentencing.
NBC News and CBS News reported in July that the US proposed a prisoner exchange to release Griner and Whelan. That deal included the US releasing Bout, known as the “Merchant of Death” because he was considered one of the world’s largest illicit arms dealers.
Bout was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison in 2012 after he was convicted of selling arms to Colombian rebels, which prosecutors said were intended to kill Americans. The Kremlin has demanded his release over the past decade, saying he was unfairly targeted.