HomeSportsBrittney Griner Released by Russia in Prisoner Swap

Brittney Griner Released by Russia in Prisoner Swap

by Samantha Whidden
(Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

A new development in the Brittney Griner case has been revealed. After being held for months in Russian prisons on drug charges, the WNBA star has been released in a one-for-one prison swap. 

According to CBS News, a U.S. official confirmed that Brittney Griner was involved in a one-for-one prison swap for international arms dealer Viktor Bout. This agreement was negotiated with Moscow over recent weeks. It was also given final approval by President Biden within the past week. The swap took place on Thursday (December 8th) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The agreement had notably been reached a week earlier. 

Meanwhile, a White House official confirmed to the media outlet that President Biden was in the Oval Office on Thursday morning speaking to Brittney Griner and her wife. Vice President Kamala Harris was present in the Oval Office at the time as well. It was also reported that per standard procedure for freed U.S. prisoners, the WNBA star will be undergoing a medical evaluation. 

Although Brittney Griner will be stateside momentarily, the one-for-one prison swap left retired U.S. Marine Paul Whelan still imprisoned in Russia. Whelan has been in Vladimir Putin-ran country for nearly four years and was convicted of espionage. The U.S. continues to claim that the accusations made by Russian officials in regard to Whelan are false.

President Biden Announces Speaking to Brittney Griner Following the One-for-One Prisoner Swap 

Following his phone call with Brittney Griner and her wife, President Biden took to Twitter to announce the big news. Cherelle, Griner’s wife, was present during the phone conversation. She is seen in pictures hugging the President and smiling. Vice President Kamala Harris was also seen smiling brightly over the news about the basketball player’s release.

“Moments ago I spoke to Brittney Griner,” President Biden declared in a tweet earlier this morning. He also confirmed that the WNBA player is safe. “She is on a plane. She is on her way home.”

Along with announcing Brittney Griner’s release, President Biden has reportedly ordered Bout to be freed and returned to Russia. He also signed the commutation order cutting short Bout’s 25-year federal prison sentence. 

As previously reported, Brittney Griner was convicted of drug charges back in August. She was later handed down a nine-year sentence and was later sent to a Russian penal colony. The WNBA player was faced with homophobia bigotry and 16-hour workdays during her time at the colony. 

Brittney Griner’s reps spoke to TMZ about the situation. “Despite the fact she is alone and now nearing her ninth month in detention separated from her loved ones she is trying to stay strong.”

Griner appealed the court’s decision in October. However, the court denied her appeal.