December 8, 2022
BREAKING: Brittney Griner released from Russian custody
Months-long ordeal comes to an end
The months-long saga of Brittney Griner being held by the Russian government has come to an end, with the United States agreeing to a prisoner swap with Russia in exchange for international arms dealer Viktor Bout, CBS News reported on Thursday morning.
The United States is currently evaluating Griner medically, while President Joe Biden, who has been in communication with Griner and her wife, Cherelle, commuted the sentence of Bout to bring about the end of Griner’s tenure in Russian custody.
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“In the Oval Office, I spoke with Brittney Griner,” Biden said Thursday. “She’s safe. She’s on a plane, she’s on her way home. After months of being unjustly detained to Russia held under intolerable circumstances, Brittney will soon be back in the arms of her loved ones. And she should have been there all along.”
Griner, who turned 32 in October in a Russian prison, had been transferred to a penal colony after a Russian court convicted her of illegal cannabis-derived oil cartridges. Her legal team had her plead guilty to expedite the legal process and begin the negotiations to bring her home, a strategy validated by Thursday’s news.
According to CBS News, the previous offer involved more people in an exchange, with the Griner-for-Bout swap coming into focus over the past two weeks.
“So over the last nine months, you all have been so privy to one of the darkest moments of my life,” Griner’s wife, Cherelle, said as she stood next to Biden. “And so today, I’m just standing here overwhelmed with the emotions but the most important emotion that I have right now is just sincere gratitude for President Biden and his entire administration.”
The women’s basketball community has been relentlessly outspoken on the need to bring Griner home, with attention focused on her plight in ways ranging from letter-writing campaigns to, notably, Dawn Staley and Tara VanDerveer wearing shirts in support of Griner during a recent South Carolina-Stanford game that was nationally televised.
“Thank you, everybody, for your support,” Cherelle Griner said. “And so it’s just a happy day for me and my family. So I’m gonna smile right now. Thank you.”