Brittney Griner was arrested in February before the start of the Russia-Ukraine war for bringing vape cartridges containing cannabis-derived oils through a Moscow airport while returning to the country to play in a country basketball league.
About 10 months later, just a few weeks before Christmas vacation, Griner returns home.
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Griner was released from a Russian penal colony on Thursday in a prisoner exchange for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, a US official confirmed to Fox News.
US and Russian officials have expressed optimism in recent weeks about a possible deal for Griner. A senior Russian official said last week that a deal was possible before the end of the year.
President Biden tweeted about Griner’s release. He was seen in photos with Vice President Kamala Harris and Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner.
“A few moments ago I spoke with Brittney Griner,” the tweet read. “She’s safe. She’s on a plane. She’s on her way home.”
BRITTNEY GRINER’S LEGAL TEAM MEETS WITH THE WNBA STAR IN RUSSIAN PENAL COLONY: ‘WITH AS WELL AS CAN BE EXPECTED’
Griner was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on February 17 after Russian authorities said she had vape cartridges laced with cannabis oil inside her luggage. On August 4, Griner received a nine-year sentence after pleading guilty, arguing that she had been prescribed cannabis for her pain and inadvertently packed it. Her sentence was confirmed in October and she was later transferred to a penal colony.
Bout is known as the “Merchant of Death” and the possible trade for him was raised in May. He was in the midst of a 25-year sentence in federal prison after he was convicted of conspiring to kill Americans in connection with supporting a Colombian terrorist organization.
He was nicknamed the “merchant of death” due to his notoriety for leading a fleet of old Soviet-era cargo planes to hot spots in Africa. His dealings inspired the Nicolas Cage film “Lord of War.”
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Paul Whelan, another American jailed in Russia, was not part of the exchange. He has been jailed on espionage charges that his family and the US government have said are baseless.