To see it in the afternoon on this Thursday holiday without parties. Although no, it’s not a movie. It is the end of the suffering and ordeal of an athlete who could well be scripted fodder for a Netflix series in the immediate future. American basketball star Brittney Griner has been released from a Russian jail after nine months in jail thanks to a “prisoner” swap with Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, imprisoned for ten years in the United States.
The secret exchange already took place this Thursday at the Abu Dhabi airport, as reported by the Russian Foreign Ministry. Griner immediately boarded a plane headed for his country. “A few moments ago I spoke with Brittney Griner. She is safe. She is on a plane. She is on her way home,” Joe Biden said in a brief communication from the White House. “I also want to thank the United Arab Emirates for helping us facilitate her release,” he added.
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According to Biden, the two-time Olympic champion had “good morals” despite the “trauma” she suffered. Griner’s wife, Cherelle, said she was “overwhelmed with emotions”: “My family is complete”he noted, expressing his “thank you” to the Biden administration. Although not everyone in the United States is happy about a decision that, for many, may lead to arbitrary detention of US citizens in Russia.
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The 32-year-old athlete was arrested in February at a Moscow airport -Griner played for the Russian UMMC Ekaterinburg- with a vape and liquid containing cannabis, a product prohibited in Russia. She explained that she used it to soothe pain related to her intensive basketball practice, but in August she was sentenced to nine years in prison.
After her appeal was rejected, Griner was transferred in November to a penal colony in Mordovia, in central Russia. That fact promoted the idea of exchanging it with Viktor Bout, Notorious Russian arms dealer arrested in Thailand in 2008, sentenced to 25 years in US prison. Nicknamed the “death dealer,” his extraordinary career served as the inspiration for the film “The Warlord,” in which Nicolas Cage stars as an arms dealer.
Former Phoenix Mercury player, who was selected No. 1 in the 2013 Draft, He is one of the most important talents in the American basketball league in history.and left a mark on history thanks to having been a seven-time All-Star, a WNBA champion and a two-time Olympic gold medalist.
There is still a detainee in Russia
Other American prisoner in Russia, ex-military man Paul Whelan, was not included in the exchange. “Even if we fail to secure Paul’s release, we will never give up,” Biden said. In a statement, his family said they were “happy” for Griner but “still devastated” by Whelan’s stay in a Russian prison before Christmas, which the family will spend “for the fourth time” without him. Arrested in December 2018 in Russia, Whelan was sentenced in 2020 to 16 years in prison for “espionage”, a sentence that the former military man denounced as fabricated.