HomeSportsPresident Biden Speaks Out Following Brittney Griner’s Release From Russia

President Biden Speaks Out Following Brittney Griner’s Release From Russia

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Thursday morning (December 8), WNBA star Brittney Griner was officially released from the Russian prison in which she was detained for close to a year. Back in February, Griner was arrested at a Russian airport for possession of cannabis oil.

Following a tense trial, the Phoenix Mercury player received a shocking nine-year sentence. She was then transported to a Russian penal colony known for the horrific conditions in which its prisoners are kept.

After ten long months of negotiations, President Joe Biden agreed to a prisoner swap. In exchange for Brittney Griner‘s release, Russia would receive convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout. The trade took place in the United Arab Emirates, after which Griner boarded a plane to San Antonio where she’ll receive much-needed care.

In a press conference following her long-awaited release, Joe Biden expressed his relief at the safety of the two-time Olympic gold medalist. “Moments ago, standing together with her wife Cherelle in the oval office, I spoke with Brittney Griner,” Biden said. “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 circumstances, Brittney will soon be back in the arms of her loved ones. She should’ve been there all along.”

“This is a day we worked toward for a long time. We never stopped pushing for her release. It took painstaking and intense negotiations,” he continued. “And I want to thank all the hardworking public servants across my administration, who worked tirelessly to secure her release.”

Former US Marine Remains Imprisoned Following Brittney Griner Release

Known as the “Merchant of Death,” Viktor Bout was posed as a potential candidate for a prisoner swap back in May. At the time of his release into Russian custody, Bout was in the middle of a 25-year sentence in federal prison.

The former Soviet military translator was arrested in 2008 on terrorism charges by the Royal Thai Police. He was subsequently convicted of conspiracy to kill Americans in the support of a Colombian terrorist organization. Bout received his ominous nickname after gaining notoriety for the arms deals that inspired the 2005 film Lord of War.

United States officials attempted to negotiate the release of former US Marine Paul Whelan as well. Unfortunately, however, those negotiations have been thus far unsuccessful. In 2018, Whelan was sentenced to 16 years in prison on alleged wrongful espionage charges. He has now faced the brutal conditions of the Russian prison for over three years.

“There is no greater success than for a wrongful detainee to be freed and for them to go home,” Whelan’s brother, David Whelan, wrote in response to the new of Brittney Griner’s release. “The Biden Administration made the right decision to bring Ms. Griner home, and to make the deal that was possible, rather than waiting for one that wasn’t going to happen.”

“She will be reunited with her family. Brittney is free. And Paul is still a hostage. But how many more times do I need to write that?” he continued. “Despite the possibility that there might be an exchange without Paul, our family is still devastated. I can’t even fathom how Paul will feel when he learns. Paul has worked so hard to survive nearly 4 years of this injustice.”