WNBA star Brittney Griner has been released from Russian detention and is on her
way back to the United States, President Joe Biden
Moscow released the athlete in a swap for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout,
according to two senior administration officials and a separate statement from
Russia’s Foreign Ministry. Biden approved the release of Bout, commuting his 25-year
prison sentence, one of the U.S. officials said.
Russia’s exchange of WNBA star Brittney Griner for the notorious Russian arms
dealer Viktor Bout is a sign that one of the few remaining diplomatic back channels
between Washington and Moscow can still produce results.
But Moscow drove a hard bargain, dashing Washington’s efforts to also free another
American, former Marine Paul Whelan, in a two-for-one swap. Whelan, like Griner,
has been designated by the State Department as wrongly detained and has been in
Russian custody far longer, since 2018. He was convicted in 2020.
Read Also:Brittney Griner pleads guilty to drugs charges in Russian court but says there was ‘no intent’
Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted Thursday morning that Brittney Griner
was returning from her “wrongful detention” but added that the Biden
administration was also committed to bringing back Paul Whelan, a former U.S.
Marine serving a 16-year sentence of hard labor in Russia under sham espionage
charges from 2020.
Blinken’s tweet read: “After months of wrongful detention in Russia, Brittney Griner
is on her way home to her wife Cherelle and her other loved ones. We will not cease
in our efforts until Paul Whelan is back with his family, too.”