It’s a moment so many have been waiting for. WNBA Star Brittney Griner is finally free from Russia after spending more than 294 days behind bars.
“She’s safe. She’s on a plane. She’s on her way home after months of being unjustly detained in Russia, held under intolerable conditions,” President Joe Biden announced from the White House Roosevelt Room on Dec. 8.
Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, stood alongside the president during the announcement, which the president stated he worked a long time for.
“Brittney will soon be back in the arms of her loved ones, and she should have been there all along,” Biden added.
Moments ago I spoke to Brittney Griner.— President Biden (@POTUS) December 8, 2022
She is safe.
She is on a plane.
She is on her way home. pic.twitter.com/FmHgfzrcDT
Griner Released In Prisoner Swap
Griner’s release didn’t come without conditions from Russia. Russia’s agreed to swap Griner for convicted Russian arms trader Viktor Bout, NPR reports.
“As a result of intense efforts, we managed to agree with the American side on organization of an exchange of Bout for Griner,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry confirmed in a statement. “The Russian citizen has been returned to his homeland.”
Bout is a former Soviet Union military officer serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States on charges related to conspiring to kill Americans, acquire and export anti-aircraft missiles, and provide material support to a terrorist organization, according to CNN.
It’s important to note prisoner swaps by the U.S. government are extremely rare as officials believe the practice could encourage the imprisonment of more Americans abroad. For the Biden Administration, officials say there are times when there are no other alternatives.
“We start by asking ourselves this question: How is it acceptable for someone like Brittney Griner to be put through sham proceedings and forced to spend [time] … in a Russian penal colony, in horrific circumstances that she did not deserve? And we regard that as unacceptable,” the official told NPR, adding that the administration felt it was a “moral obligation” to bring her home.
Griner and Bout were swapped at an Abu Dhabi airport.
Griner Detained In Russia For Drug Charges
Russia announced on March 5 the WNBA star was detained on drug charges after they accused her of transporting vape cartridges containing cannabis oil through Russia, as we previously reported.
She was sentenced to nine years in prison in October after pleading guilty to the charges.
President Biden said he spoke to Griner from the Oval Office and that while she’s in good spirits, she’s experiencing “trauma” and will need time to heal.
The Travel Noire team is sending Griner, her loved ones, and friends well wishes as they heal during what has been a difficult time.