Brittney Griner Freed After Prisoner Swap With Russian ‘Merchant of Death’ Arms Dealer Viktor Bout

WNBA star Brittney Griner has been freed in a prisoner exchange with Russia.

According to multiple reports, the Biden administration negotiated a trade for Griner’s release, which took place in the United Arab Emirates, in exchange for “Merchant of Death” Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

President Joe Biden tweeted about Griner’s release this morning.

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

Multiple reports have stated the swap did not include Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who is serving a 16-year prison sentence in a Russian penal colony. Whelan was arrested on espionage charges in December 2018 — charges that he has denied — and was convicted and sentenced in June 2020. The State Department has declared Whelan as wrongfully detained.

Griner was convicted on drug possession and smuggling charges in Russia and was serving a nine-year sentence at the time of her release. The athlete was detained mid-February by Russian Federal Customs Service officials, according to a New York Times report, after they found vape cartridges that contained hashish oil in her luggage at the Sheremetyevo airport. The Customs Service, according to the report, stated a criminal case had been opened into the large-scale transportation of drugs, and that it can carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

Since she has been detained, the worlds of sports and entertainment have rallied behind Griner in hopes that she would soon be released.

Late last month, Jasmine Jordan, the daughter of NBA icon Michael Jordan, offered FN a message of support for Griner.

“I’m a huge Brittney fan. I’ve been a fan of her since her days at Baylor [University] and I love her as an athlete, I love her as a person and just in general how she carries herself day in and day out. To see someone like that go through this, whether you know them or not, is unfortunate,” she said. “We’ve got to continue to bring attention to her, we’ve got to continue to speak and pray and be there for her, her family, her wife, etc., because her fight is not over. It’s only beginning.”

WNBA star Aerial Powers also revealed her support of Griner.

“I feel for her, I know her personally, I’ve played video games with her. I hope that she’s strong enough to get past this. I hope that this fuels her and she’s documenting everything, she’s writing down daily how she feels, what’s happening so when she come back to us she can write a book and maybe profit off of this in some way. Everybody in the world knows about this, everybody’s going to want to read it or hear about or watch it. I wish there was more we could do, the WNBA and the teams. We all wish we could do more,” Powers said.

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