Brittney Griner Arrives In U.S. Following Prisoner Exchange


President Biden announced the exchange in a statement this morning at the White House, alongside Griner’s wife, Cherelle: “She’s safe.”

This article has been updated to reflect developing events. 

Brittney Griner has arrived back in the U.S. after spending the last 10 months detained in Russia.

Griner, who was released Thursday in a prisoner exchange, landed in San Antonio early Friday morning. She was taken to Brooke Army Medical Center for a routine medical evaluation. 

In footage released Thursday of Griner aboard a state-bound flight, the WNBA star said that she was “happy” to be going home.

President Biden announced the exchange in a statement Thursday morning at the White House, alongside Griner’s wife, Cherelle. 

“She’s safe,” the President said in his remarks, as reported by The New York Times. “She’s on a plane. She’s on her way home after months of being unjustly detained in Russia, held in intolerable circumstances.”

In her statement, Cherelle Griner said that she was “overwhelmed with emotions” and that Brittney’s detainment had been one of “the darkest moments” of her life.

Griner had been detained at a Russian airport in February, after authorities allegedly found cannabis in her possession. She pleaded guilty to the charges in July, saying that she’d been prescribed medical marijuana by a doctor. She was subsequently sentenced to nine and a half years in prison. 

Following her detainment but before the start of her trial in July, the U.S. State Department declared Griner “wrongfully detained,” signaling that it believed the charges against her were ultimately not a factor in her detainment.

In November, she was transferred to a penal colony in Russia’s Mordovia region. At the time, her defense team said that Griner was “doing as well as could be expected and trying to stay strong as she adapts to a new environment.” 

Griner was released in exchange for convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout. Bout had been held in the U.S. following his conviction on multiple charges back in 2011, including conspiracy to kill Americans.

Another detained American, Paul Whelan, remains in Russia. The New York Times reports that although the Biden team had tried to secure Whelan’s release as well as Griner’s, Russia agreed only to a “one-for-one” swap.

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