Brittney Griner, the WNBA star who was wrongfully detained 294 days ago in Russia on allegations of carrying vape cartridges with hashish oil, is returning home, President Joe Biden announced on Thursday.
Griner was detained in February and served nine months in a Russian prison before moving to an undisclosed-to-the-public penal colony in November. She was sentenced to nine year in prison in October.
Ultimately, she was freed via a prisoner exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who's known infamously as the Merchant of Death.
Yes. Leaked video of the prisoner swap shows both Griner and Bout on the same tarmac on Thursday.
In the video, Griner flashes a smile and also shows that her hair has been cut. According to ESPN's T.J. Quinn, it was her decision to have her hair cut to not have to deal with it during a Russian winter.
Griner has not yet spoken out to the public, though her wife Cherelle has. It's important to realize Brittney can and should speak when or if she's ever ready to.
With overwhelming joy. There was tremendous concern for when Griner would be released, and while Christmas time was a target, it was never a sure thing. The stakes rose to a devastating level when it was announced she'd been moved to a penal colony, which are known for harsh conditions.
For the last several months, Cherelle has worked closely with the family of Paul Whelan, a former Marine detained in 2018 who is serving a 16-year espionage charge in Russia. While the U.S. negotiated for the release of both Whelan and Griner, only Griner made her way back home on Thursday.
Bad faith people of the internet came to make swift claims about Whelan's potential release that are untrue.
Per ESPN's Quinn, the U.S. had proposed a 1-for-1 swap including Whelan for Bout, but "it was considered a non-starter." Due to Whelan's espionage charge, he's considered a different "class" of prisoner.
Whelan's brother, David, spoke out on the matter on Thursday.
"There is no greater success than for a wrongful detainee to be freed and for them to go home. As the family member of a Russian hostage, I can literally only imagine the joy she will have, being reunited with her loved ones, and in time for the holidays," he wrote, according to NPR.
"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."
"BG's not here to say this, but I'll gladly speak on her behalf and say that BG and I will remain committed to the work of getting every American home including Paul, whose family is in our hearts today as we celebrate BG being home. We do understand that there are still people out here who are enduring what I endured the last nine months of missing, tremendously, their loved ones."