Brittney Griner arrives in US after being released from Russia in prisoner swap with arms dealer Viktor Bout

britney greener Arrived in the United States early Friday, landing at Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas.

The WNBA star, who spent months in a Russian prison on drug charges, was released Thursday in a one-on-one prisoner swap for notorious international arms dealer boutending an ordeal that sparked intense high-level talks between Washington and Moscow to secure her freedom.

Presidential Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens, tweets“Glad Britney is back in America. Welcome home BG!”

Greiner is expected to undergo a medical evaluation soon, as is standard procedure in the release of U.S. prisoners.

TOPSHOT-US-Russia Diplomacy
On Dec. 12, American basketball star Brittney Griner was seen getting off a plane after landing at San Antonio’s Kelly Field. On September 9, 2022, she was released from a Russian prison in exchange for a notorious arms dealer.


president biden Announcing the upcoming return of the Griner “She’s safe. She’s on the plane. She’s on her way home,” he said Thursday morning at the White House.

“After months of being unjustly detained in Russia in intolerable circumstances, Britney will soon be back in the arms of the people she loves, where she should have been,” Bai said. Deng said. “This is a day we’ve worked for a long time. We never stopped pushing for her release.”

CBS News first reported the exchange, which took place in the United Arab Emirates, citing a U.S. official as saying five former U.S. officials told CBS News that the agreement was reached last Thursday.

The president said he spoke with Griner by phone from the Oval Office, and he was also on the phone with Griner’s wife, Cherrell, Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.

APTOPIX Russia Griner
In this image, produced from video provided by Russia’s Federal Security Service, WNBA star Brittney Griner sits on a plane as she flies to Abu Dhabi to meet Russian citizen Viktor · Bout (Viktor Bout) exchange. September 2022.

/ Associated Press

gentlemen. Biden said he was “pleased to be able to say that Britney is in good spirits.” He dismissed the “open trial in Russia” that landed her in jail, saying “she didn’t ask for special treatment”.

To secure Griner’s release, the president ordered Bout’s release and his return to Russia. gentlemen. Biden signed a commutation order that shortened Bout’s 25-year federal prison sentence.

Notably, the Griner-for-Bout swap leaves retired US Marines Paul Whelan imprisoned in Russia. Whelan has been in Russian custody for nearly four years.Have convicted of espionage America calls it false.

“We haven’t forgotten Paul Whelan,” Mr. Biden said on Thursday, adding that “we will never give up” securing his release.

U.S. officials told reporters that it was clear during talks with the Russians that the prospect of releasing Griner and Whelan in exchange for Bout was not a viable option, with one official saying the U.S. “could choose to bring a particular American home – Bran Griner—or bring home nothing.”

Whelan told CNN by phone Thursday that he was glad Griner was released, but that he was “very disappointed that more was not done to secure my release, especially as the fourth anniversary of my arrest approaches. ’” This month marks the fourth anniversary of Whelan’s detention in Russia.

WNBA Phoenix Mercury star center Greiner, 32, was detained at a Russian airport in February and later pleaded guilty to charges after a cartridge of marijuana-derived oil was found in his luggage. Griner said she didn’t want to take the cartridges with her when she traveled to the country during the WNBA offseason to play in the Russian basketball league.

After five months of diplomatic standstill and various permutations of potential swap arrangements — including a previously unreported U.S. offer last summer to return two prisoners to Russia for two Americans — a source said the The one-for-one exchange is in the last two weeks.

Whelan, who works as a security contractor for a company, was in Moscow attending a friend’s wedding in December 2018 when he was detained in a hotel. Russian authorities later sentenced him to 16 years in prison for espionage – charges the US and Whelan deny.

Bout, who was most recently held at a federal prison in Marion, Illinois, was arrested by Thailand’s Drug Enforcement Agency following a 2008 sting operation. He was convicted of conspiracy to kill an American and began serving a 25-year sentence a decade ago.

Griner’s arrest coincides with the start of February Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, and all U.S. dealings with the Kremlin are complicated by the conflict. The U.S. says both Griner and Whelan have been “mistakenly detained,” and officials suspect Russia has been using U.S. prisoners as leverage.

Greener’s return to Bout marks the Biden administration’s second prisoner swap with Russia. In April, the U.S. traded Russian smuggler Konstantin Yaroshenko, who was convicted of conspiring to import cocaine, trevor reeda former U.S. Marine, had been imprisoned in Russia for nearly three years.

CBS News learned last Thursday that a Griner-for-Bout deal was imminent, but agreed to a White House request to suspend reporting because officials expressed serious concerns about the fragility of the then-nascent deal.

Biden administration officials have warned that releasing details of the swap agreement early would almost certainly lead to Russia’s withdrawal from the deal and could jeopardize Griner’s well-being.

Nancy Cordes, Ed O’Keefe, Sara Cook, Camilla Schick, Tucker Reals, Haley Ott, Melissa Quinn and Caitlin Yilek contributed to the report.

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