US basketball player Brittney Griner is released from a prisoner exchange in Russia. She will reportedly be traded for notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout.
The US and Russia have agreed to swap prisoners. US basketball star Brittney Griner will be released from a Russian prison camp after being convicted of illegal drug possession and attempted smuggling. US President Joe Biden tweeted: "I spoke to Brittney Griner moments ago. She's safe. She's on a plane. She's on her way home." The Russian Foreign Ministry said the exchange took place at Abu Dhabi Airport.
Griner was arrested at a Moscow airport for possession of cannabis oil a few days before the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine began in February of this year and sentenced to nine years in prison in August. Most recently, Moscow had transferred the two-time Olympic basketball champion to a penal colony, which is reportedly notorious for its harsh conditions and poor sanitation. Griner has been playing in Russia since 2015 at UMMC Yekaterinburg, the country's serial champion and, with the 32-year-old in the squad, has since won four times the Euroleague, the highest club competition in Europe. In the USA, the center player is active with Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA and is one of the dominant figures in her sport.
Bout is known as the "dealer of death" because of his involvement in arms deals, because after the collapse of the Soviet Union he dealt in war weapons and sold them to warlords, for example. According to media reports, he supplied, among other things, civil war parties in African countries, and the Taliban and Al-Qaeda are said to have been among the customers. In March 2008, Bout was arrested in Thailand with the help of US authorities and finally extradited to the USA in 2010. In 2012, after being found guilty on all charges, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison and a $15 million fine.
The Kremlin has been trying to get Bout released for a long time, and in the summer it became public that the US government was open to talks about an exchange. Griner's detention over 0.5 grams of hash oil found in e-cigarette vape cartridges was widely considered unlawful, the US State Department found shortly thereafter. In July, she had written a letter to President Biden asking for support. For his "She's free" tweet, Biden now has two pictures showing him with Griner's wife Cherelle in the Oval Office.