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Brittney Griner Released From Prison In One-For-One Prisoner Swap With Russian Arms Dealer

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Brittney Griner playing for Phoenix

WNBA star Brittney Griner was released from a Russian prison after being detained for over ten months. 

Griner was released in exchange for International arms dealer Viktor Bout. According to NY Times, Bout was sentenced to 25 years for conspiracy to sell weapons to people with plans to kill Americans. Through his line of work, Bout gained the nickname the “merchant of death.”

On Thursday morning, President Joe Biden announced the release with a tweet after speaking with Griner and her wife, Cherelle Griner.

“Moments ago I spoke to Brittney Griner. She is safe. She is on a plane. She is on her way home.”

CBS News reported that the swap happened last week in the United Arab Emirates.

 

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A post shared by No Jumper 🏀 (@nojumper)

@NoJumper shared a video of the swap. Griner was removed from the penal colony where she was serving time and transferred back to Moscow last Thursday.

During a press conference following the announcement, President Biden stated that Griner was in “high spirits.” White House representatives said she would be provided with any support service needed to aid in her transition.

 

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@KollegeKid shared images of Griner upon her release. In the photos, her shoulder-length locs have been cut.

 

The 32-year-old was detained on Feb. 17 at Sheremetyevo Airport near Moscow. According to Blavity, Griner allegedly attempted to bring vape cartridges that contained cannabis oil into the country. She was returning to join the UMMC Yekaterinburg basketball team. Griner claimed she had been prescribed the cartridges for pain and inadvertently packed them. 

In August, Griner was sentenced to serve nine years in prison on the charges of narcotic smuggling. In October, she was moved to one of Russia’s most brutal penal colonies to begin serving her sentence.

Along with Griner, fellow American Paul Whelan was detained in the same Russian prison. The ex-Marine had been in custody for over four years on espionage charges. Whelan was not released along with Griner and remains imprisoned.

 

 

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During the press conference, Biden ensured that Whelan’s release was a priority.

“We’ve not forgotten about Paul Whelan.” He added that “we will never give up” seeking his release.

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