WNBA star Brittney Griner has been released from custody in Russia and is on her way back to the U.S., President Joe Biden said Thursday.
“She is safe. She is on a plane. She is on her way home,” Biden tweeted along with a photo of him embracing Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, in the White House Oval Office.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist, held for months after being convicted of drug charges this summer, was freed in a prisoner swap. Her release came in exchange for international arms dealer Viktor Bout, CBS News and other outlets reported, citing U.S. officials.
The swap, approved by Biden, took place in the United Arab Emirates, NBC News reported.
Griner, 32, was detained in February at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport after police said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage. Griner admitted that she had the canisters, but said that they were unintentionally packed and that she had no criminal intent.
She was sentenced to nine years in prison for drug possession in August.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that the State Department had been working to secure the release of Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan, who has been in custody since 2018 on espionage charges. Whelan, who has denied the charges, was sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2020.
Biden made no mention of Whelan in his announcement of Griner’s release.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
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