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Russia frees US basketball star Brittney Griner in prisoner swap

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Viktor Bout

Brittney Griner, the American basketball player, has been freed by Russia following a swap deal that sends Viktor Bout, an arms dealer, through the other side.

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President Joe Biden

President Joe Biden confirmed Griner’s release at a White House press conference on Thursday.

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Phoenix Mercury

He added that the 33-year-old Phoenix Mercury star is safe and is currently flying home from the United Arab Emirates, where the exchange took place.

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Brittney Griner

A few moments ago I spoke with Brittney Griner.

She is safe.
She is on a plane.
She is on her way home. pic.twitter.com/FmHgfzrcDT

President Biden

— President Biden (@POTUS) December 8, 2022

“He’s safe, he’s on a plane, he’s on his way home,” Biden said.

“I’m happy to say that Brittney is in good spirits…she needs time and space to recover.”

Viktor Bout

Viktor Bout was extradited to the United States from Thailand in 2010.
Photo credit: Reuters

National Basketball Association

Griner was in Russia to play in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) offseason when she was arrested at a Moscow airport in February for possession of cannabis oil.

Possession of cannabis is illegal in Russia and, despite the basketball player’s claim that her use of the substance was prescribed by a doctor, she was sentenced to nine years in prison and sent to a penal colony.

Griner and Paul Whelan

In November, Russia announced an exchange agreement for the release of Griner and Paul Whelan, a former US Marine, with Bout, a Russian criminal in the United States, once nicknamed “the merchant of death.”

However, Whelan has yet to be released by Russia as part of the deal.

Griner is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and an openly gay black woman.

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