A US official said that Brittney Griner, the US basketball star, has been released in a prisoner exchange.
After being convicted in August, she was sentenced to nine year imprisonment .
Ms Griner was taken into custody in February after customs agents discovered vape canisters with cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.
In exchange for Viktor Bout (convicted Russian arms dealer) the WNBA star was freed. He is also known as “Merchant of Death”.
President Joe Biden stated that he spoke to Ms Griner, and that she is safe and on her way home.
She will fly to San Antonio, Texas for treatment. There she will meet her husband, Cherelle.
Biden stated that Ms. Griner was held in “intolerable conditions” and had gone through a “terrible experience”.
“I am glad to be able say that Britney’s in good spirits. She is relieved to be returning home.
He said that Ms Griner “represents America’s best”, adding that she was proud to be American.
President Biden stated that the US does not forget Paul Whelan a former US Marine who is still in Russian custody
According to a senior US official, the administration did everything possible to get Paul Whelan free but that they are treating him differently. They claim he is an espionage suspect. They stated that the decision was between one [Griner] and none.
He didn’t address the US price for Ms Griner’s freedom – the release Bout, a convicted arms dealer Bout.
Bout could be offered a public position if he is at home and dry
Since long, Victor Bout has been at the top of the list for Russian citizens who want to return. After two decades of selling Soviet-era weapons to rebels, warlords, and dictators for over 20 years, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
His client list included, according to reports, Charles Taylor’s Liberia regime, al Qaeda, and the Taliban.
In 2005, Nicolas Cage starred in Lord of War, which was made into a movie about his life. Russia has always claimed that he is innocent and that the case against his was fabricated.
Selling arms at this level is unlikely without a relationship with Russian security services. This may be why Russia was so eager to bring him home.
Maria Butina, a Russian lawmaker, said that Bout’s personality had been demonized after the US secretary stated it was ready for a deal to bring back Brittney Griner or Paul Whelan. She said that she believes he is an evil Russian for Americans.
After being convicted of being an unregistered foreign agents, Butina spent 15 months in US custody. She now has a seat at the parliament.
Russia is known for its willingness to offer public positions to those who are interested in the West. Bout might find himself in a similar position now that he has finally returned home.
Cherelle Griner, Cherelle’s spouse, said that she was overwhelmed by emotions after experiencing “one of my darkest moments in my life”.
“So today, my family is complete, but as you all know, there are many families that aren’t.”
According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Griner-Bout swap occurred at Abu Dhabi airport.
It stated in a statement that “the Russian citizen has been returned home to his homeland”.
Washington under pressure over Griner case
Bout, who was a notorious arms dealer for nearly two decades, sold weaponry to rebel groups, rogue states and murderous warlords throughout Africa, Asia and South America.
The Russian state has wanted to bring him home since his capture during a sophisticated US sting.
Biden’s authorization to release Bout demonstrates the increasing pressure his administration faces to bring Ms Griner back home, especially after her recent criminal case resolution and her subsequent transfer to a penal colonies .
Campaigners, including former NBA star Dennis Rodman who claimed he was going to Russia to get the US basketball player freed, widely condemned Ms Griner’s arrest.
In a letter addressed to President Biden on US Independence Day, the Texan-born athletic expressed her concerns that she could end up in prison “forever.”
She wrote: “…As a Russian prisoner, alone with my thoughts, and without protection from my family, friends, or any achievements, I am afraid I might stay here forever.
“On the Fourth of July, our family honors those who served our freedom. My father, a Vietnam War veteran, is one such example.
It hurts to think about how I celebrate this day, because freedom is something entirely different for me this year.