US Basketball Star Arrives Home After Prisoner Swap With Russia

US Basketball Star Arrives Home After Prisoner Swap With Russia
US Basketball Star Arrives Home After Prisoner Swap With Russia

US Basketball Star Arrives Home After Prisoner Swap With Russia

President Joe Biden introduced Griner’s launch early Thursday.

Washington:

American basketball star Brittney Griner arrived within the United States Friday morning after she was launched from a Russian jail in alternate for an arms vendor generally known as the “Merchant of Death.”

Griner, 32, who was arrested in Russia in February on drug expenses, was seen by an AFP reporter strolling throughout a runway after her aircraft landed in San Antonio, Texas.

She was anticipated to be transferred to a close-by army facility for medical checks, US media reported.

Griner was exchanged in Abu Dhabi on Thursday for Viktor Bout, a 55-year-old Russian nationwide who was serving a 25-year sentence in a US jail.

In footage launched by Russian state media, Griner, shorn of her distinctive dreadlocks, and a relaxed and animated Bout may very well be seen crossing paths on the airport tarmac and heading in the direction of the planes that might take them house.

President Joe Biden mentioned on Thursday that he had spoken to her and that she was in “good spirits” after struggling “pointless trauma.”

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, WNBA champion and LGBTQ trailblazer, was arrested at a Moscow airport in opposition to a backdrop of hovering tensions over Ukraine.

She was accused of possessing vape cartridges with a small amount of hashish oil and sentenced in August to 9 years in jail.

Bout, who was accused of arming rebels in a few of the world’s bloodiest conflicts, was detained in a US sting operation in Thailand in 2008, extradited to the United States and sentenced in 2012 to 25 years behind bars.

He landed in Russia on Thursday, state tv mentioned. “Don’t fear, all the things is OK, I like you very a lot,” he advised his mom Raisa.

While Griner’s household and mates celebrated her launch, one other American held in Russia, former US Marine Paul Whelan, detained since 2018 and accused of spying, was not a part of Thursday’s alternate.

He advised CNN he was “vastly disillusioned.”

“I do not perceive why I’m nonetheless sitting right here,” Whelan advised CNN in a telephone name from a Russian penal colony.

Biden pledged to acquire Whelan’s freedom, saying “we’ll by no means surrender.”

“Sadly, for completely illegitimate causes, Russia is treating Paul’s case totally different than Brittney’s,” he mentioned.

As for Griner’s launch, Biden mentioned: “This is a day we have labored towards for a very long time. It took painstaking and intense negotiations.”

– ‘Family is entire’ –

Biden introduced Griner’s launch on Thursday flanked by her spouse, Cherelle Griner, Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“I’m simply standing right here, overwhelmed with feelings,” Cherelle Griner mentioned.

“Today my household is entire, however as you all are conscious there’s so many different households who aren’t entire.”

The Griner household thanked President Biden and his administration in an announcement, and mentioned they “pray for Paul and for the swift and secure return of all wrongfully-detained Americans.”

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert mentioned there was a “collective wave of pleasure and aid” within the ladies’s skilled league the place Griner has been a star for a decade with the Phoenix Mercury.

Biden thanked the United Arab Emirates for serving to “facilitate” Griner’s launch and the UAE issued a joint assertion with Saudi Arabia saying it was the results of “mediation efforts” by leaders of the 2 Arab nations.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre mentioned, nevertheless, there was “no mediation concerned” and “the one nations that negotiated this deal have been the United States and Russia.”

– ‘Rescue our compatriot’ –

At the time of her arrest, Griner had been enjoying for an expert crew in Russia, as a variety of WNBA gamers do within the low season.

She pleaded responsible to the costs in opposition to her, however mentioned she didn’t intend to interrupt the regulation or use the banned substance in Russia.

Griner testified that she had permission from a US physician to make use of medicinal hashish to alleviate ache from her many accidents.

The use of medical marijuana just isn’t allowed in Russia.

The Russian international ministry mentioned it had been negotiating with Washington to safe Bout’s launch “for a very long time” and that originally the United States had “refused dialogue” on together with him in any swap.

“Nevertheless, the Russian Federation continued to actively work to rescue our compatriot,” it mentioned.

The 2005 movie “Lord of War” starring Nicolas Cage was based mostly partially on Bout’s arms trafficking, and he has been the topic of a number of books and TV reveals.

Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, advised Bout in a video message that he was conscious that the arms vendor had been subjected to “highly effective bodily and ethical strain” whereas in jail, Russian information company TASS reported.

Asked about Bout’s launch, a senior US protection official mentioned “there’s a concern that he would return to doing the identical form of work that he is executed up to now.”

Moscow mentioned on Friday that ties with Washington remained in “disaster”.

“It might be flawed to attract any hypothetical conclusions that this may very well be a step in the direction of overcoming the disaster that we at the moment have in bilateral relations,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov advised the Izvestia newspaper.

Ties “proceed to stay in a tragic state.”

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV employees and is revealed from a syndicated feed.)

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