Brittney Griner

Brittney Griner Has Been Released From Russian Custody

US President Joe Biden announced the release of Brittney Griner on Thursday, saying the WNBA star is on her way home now after months in Russian detention. He said Griner is “in good spirits.”

As reported by the CNN, Griner was released as part of a prisoner swap for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Griner had been detained since February, when she was arrested on drug smuggling charges at an airport in the Moscow region.

Despite her testimony that she had inadvertently packed the cannabis oil that was found in her luggage, she was sentenced to nine years in prison in early August.

Thursday’s swap did not include another American that the State Department has declared wrongfully detained, Paul Whelan.

A US official says Russians signaled more recently that they were only willing to negotiate for Brittney Griner and not Paul Whelan. That is because Russians have been handling their cases differently based on what each has been accused of.

The Biden administration repeatedly made offers to get Whelan as part of this deal – even after Russia made clear only Griner was acceptable.

In the end, when it was clear Russia was going to refuse on Whelan, the US had to accept it.
“It was a choice to get Brittney or nothing,” the US official said.

The official says it was a “difficult decision” for President Joe Biden but one he felt he had to make.

Remember: Whelan, a US, Irish, British and Canadian citizen, was detained at a Moscow hotel in December 2018 by Russian authorities who alleged he was involved in an intelligence operation. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison on espionage charges he has vehemently denied.

Whelan had been carrying out his sentence at a labor camp in Mordovia, an eight-hour drive from Moscow, where he told CNN in June 2021 he spent his days working in a clothing factory that he called a “sweatshop.”

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