American basketball star Brittney Griner has been released. She was imprisoned in Russia, where she was held captive in a penal camp. This after she was convicted of drug smuggling in August for carrying medical cannabis oil on arrival in Moscow. Her release is part of a prisoner exchange between Russia and the United States.
Griner landed at Abu Dhabi airport yesterday. She has been in contact by telephone with President Joe Biden, who is said to have confirmed that she is in good health. “Just talked to Brittney Griner,” Biden tweeted this afternoon along with photos showing him with Vice President Harris and Brittney’s partner Cherelle. “She’s safe. She’s on a plane. She’s on her way home.”
Moments ago I spoke to Brittney Griner.
She is safe.
She is on a plane.
She is on her way home. pic.twitter.com/FmHgfzrcDT
— President Biden (@POTUS) December 8, 2022
In exchange for Griner, the US released notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. He was serving a 25-year sentence for aiding terrorists and conspiring to kill Americans. He also supplied weapons to various militias and terrorist organizations. The movie Lord of War (2005) is largely based on his life.
Earlier reports of a prisoner exchange also mentioned former US Marine Paul Whelan. However, he has not been released and is therefore still imprisoned in Russia, much to the dismay of his loved ones. According to a US government official, the deal with Griner was “the only one we could close right now.”
US officials: Russia frees WNBA player Brittney Griner in prisoner swap, with US releasing Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. pic.twitter.com/JEsGaOfFiu
— ESPN (@espn) December 8, 2022
Brittney Griner is one of the best basketball players in the world and a multiple Olympic champion. Last February, she flew to Moscow to play for a Russian team. There she was arrested because she had cannabis oil with her for her e-cigarette, which she had received in the United States to combat pain. In August she was therefore sentenced to nine years in prison and a fine of 16,000 euros for drug smuggling.
In an earlier statement, Griner explained that the cannabis oil was accidentally left in her purse and that she was unaware that the oil is banned in Russia. Her conviction caused a lot of commotion and many well-known Americans spoke out about the bizarrely high sentence. Despite this, she was transferred to a penal camp in early November, where she was said to be in poor conditions.
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