Washington — President Biden said WNBA star Brittney Griner is in “good spirits” and is heading home after being secured by the United States.in an extraordinary one by one prisoner exchange for international arms dealer .
“You are safe. He is on a plane,” Biden said in brief remarks at the White House on Thursday morning. “She’s on her way home. After months of being wrongfully detained in Russia, held under intolerable circumstances, Brittney will soon be back in the arms of her loved ones and she should have been there the whole time. This is a day when we have worked”. for a long time. We never stopped pushing for her release.”
Mr. Biden spoke to Griner by phone from the Oval Office in the morning, along with Griner’s wife, Cherelle.
The exchange, first reported by CBS News, took place Thursday in the United Arab Emirates. Five former US officials told CBS News of the deal. it had been reached for a week.
Griner was detained at a Russian airport in February and later pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the discovery of cartridges of cannabis-derived oil in her luggage.
Mr. Biden also said that the United States would continue to work for the release ofthe retired Marine who has been in Russian custody since 2018. The president said the prisoner swap for Griner “was not a choice of which American to bring home.”
“We have not forgotten about Paul Whelan, who has been wrongfully detained in Russia for years,” Biden said. “This was not a choice of which American to bring home. We brought Trevor Reed when we had the chance earlier this year. Unfortunately, for illegitimate reasons, Russia has treated Paul’s case differently than Brittney’s. And while still we have not been successful in securing Paul’s release, we have not given up. We will never give up. We remain in close contact with Paul’s family, the Whelan family, and my thoughts and prayers are with them today. They must have such mixed emotions today”.
David Whelan, Paul’s brother,that the family was “so glad Brittney Griner is on her way home” but expressed frustration that Paul remained incarcerated.
“Despite the possibility of a trade without Paul, our family is still devastated,” said David Whelan. “I can’t even imagine how Paul will feel when he finds out. Paul has worked very hard to survive almost 4 years of this injustice. His hopes had skyrocketed knowing that the US government was taking concrete steps for once for his release. He had been worrying about where he would live when he returned to the United States.”
Speaking after Biden, Cherelle Griner thanked government officials for their work in bringing his wife home, saying her imprisonment had been “one of the darkest moments of my life.”
“Today my family is complete. But as everyone knows, there are many other families that are not complete,” she said, adding that she “will remain committed” to bringing all Americans home, including Whelan.