WNBA star Brittney Griner has been released from Russian detention, President Joe Biden said Thursday.
A source familiar with the matter tells CNN that the swap involves convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. The swap did not include another American that the State Department has declared wrongfully detained, Paul Whelan.
“She’s safe, she’s on a plane, she’s on her way home,” Biden said at the White House Thursday morning alongside Griner’s wife, Cherelle. “After months of being unjustly 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 all along.”
Biden acknowledged that Griner’s release was occurring while Whelan remained imprisoned, saying that Whelan’s family “have to have such mixed emotions today.”
“This was not a choice of which American to bring home,” Biden said. “Sadly, for totally illegitimate reasons, Russia is treating Paul’s case differently than Brittney’s. And while we have not yet succeeded in securing Paul’s release, we are not giving up. We will never give up.”
Biden said efforts to bring Griner home took “painstaking and intense negotiations” as he thanked members of his administration who were involved.
“This is a day we’ve worked toward for a long time. We never stopped pushing for her release,” he said.
Asked when Griner would be home following his remarks, Biden indicated it would be in the next “24 hours.” As for what he would say to Whelan’s family, he said, “We’re speaking to them.”
Cherelle Griner thanked the administration for helping secure her wife’s release and said she was “overwhelmed with emotions.”
- Griner was released as part of a prisoner swap for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, according to a source familiar with the matter.
- Griner had been detained since February, when she was arrested on drug smuggling charges at an airport in the Moscow region.
- Despite her testimony that she had inadvertently packed the cannabis oil that was found in her luggage, she was sentenced to nine years in prison in early August.
- Thursday’s swap did not include another American that the State Department has declared wrongfully detained, Paul Whelan.