Griner Is Free As Biden Approves Prisoner Swap With Russia

Brittney Griner will not be serving out her 9 year sentence and has been released from prison in Russia. The WNBA star has spent the last several months in Russian prison after she was charge and convicted of drug possession when cannabis-derived oil cartridges were found in her luggage while traveling through Russia. This happened in February of this year (2022) coinciding with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a possible backlash incident for the show of support the US was giving Ukraine.

Today (Thursday December 8th, 2002), Griner has been released in a one-for-one prisoner swap for international arms dealer Viktor Bout, ending his 25-year federal prison sentence. President Biden agreed to the prison swap, a plan that has been in the works for several weeks and was finalized last Thursday, but it was today that the prison swap took place in the United Arab Emirates.

A White House official said President Biden was in the Oval Office Thursday morning on the phone, speaking with Griner and her wife, and that Vice President Kamala Harris was also in the room. Per standard procedure for freed U.S. prisoners, Griner was expected to quickly undergo a medical evaluation. 

The hope was to free Griner and retired U.S. Marine Paul Whelan from prison in Russia in a two-for-one swap and even a two-for-two swap. Whelan was sentenced in 2020 to 16 years in prison for espionage, a charge the US has called false from the beginning.

The last news we heard about Griner was that she was moved to Russian “penal colony.” 

About the other two prisoners mentioned in the negotiations.  CBSNews reports:

Whelan, who once worked as a corporate security contractor, was in Moscow for a friend’s wedding when he was detained at a hotel in December 2018.  Russian authorities later sentenced him to 16 years in prison for espionage — a charge the U.S. and Whelan denied.  This month marks the fourth anniversary of Whelan’s time in Russian custody. 

Bout, who was most recently held at a federal prison in Marion, Illinois, was arrested by the Drug Enforcement Agency in Thailand following a sting operation in 2008. He was convicted of conspiring to kill Americans and began his 25-year sentence a decade ago. 

Prior to his arrest, Bout was accused by the U.N. of arming Liberian President Charles Taylor during the brutal civil war in Sierra Leone. He served as the inspiration for Nicholas Cage’s character in the movie “Lord of War.” Bout’s release is sure to spark criticism from some of the DEA agents who tracked and arrested him. 

Apparently news sources knew last Thursday of the swap held today, but the Biden administration officials warned that making details of the swap public would almost certainly lead Russia to pull out of the agreement and potentially endanger Griner’s well-being. 

The president spoke to the public at 8:30 AM EST about today’s news.


Source: CBSNews

 

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