By: Buz Deliere | December 8, 2022
After an exhaustive diplomatic effort, Brittney Griner is finally returning home. The WNBA star was detained in Russia for weeks and a swap involving convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout secured her release.
President Joe Biden took to Twitter Thursday evening delivering the good news that he had spoken with Ms. Griner who is on her way back to U.S. soil after enduring this difficult episode abroad.
"I'm glad to say Brittney's in good spirits.. she needs time and space to recover," he said at the White House.
After a tense negotiation, Russia confirmed the successful swap of an undisclosed national at Abu Dhabi airport. A statement from the Russian foreign ministry expressed relief that their citizen had been successfully returned to his homeland.
With his notorious reputation as the world's premier gunrunner, Viktor Bout is infamous for arming some of history’s most dangerous warlords and rogue states. Wanted by governments around the globe, he has become a symbol of illicit weapons trafficking in international politics.
After years of clandestine activity, a US-led sting operation brought the career of this individual to an abrupt halt in 2008 as he was taken into custody at a hotel in Bangkok. His subsequent extradition and lengthy prison sentence for conspiring to support terrorist organizations sparked outrage from Russian officials.
As the US worked to gain freedom for Griner officials also fiercely advocated for Marine Paul Whelan's release, who had been accused of espionage, as part of this deal.
With Russia's refusal, the US had to make a tough call and accept it. A United States official expressed that in this scenario there was simply no other choice but to take "Brittney or nothing".
In December 2018, Paul Whelan was detained in Moscow under suspicion of involvement in an intelligence operation. He has continually claimed his innocence, but a Russian court sentenced him to 16 years imprisonment - a sentence which has been served out at Mordovia labor camp.
President Biden had the final say and gave the approval to a prisoner-swap exchange that freed Griner amidst intense negotiations.
After a suspenseful morning of briefings, President Biden finally received confirmation that Griner was back in US custody. In a heartfelt gesture honoring her safe return to American soil, he conducted an Oval Office call with Griner, Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, and Cherelle Griner.
This article is breaking and will be updated as more details are released.