Brittney Griner, an American basketball player who had been held hostage in Russia for almost ten months on drug-related charges, was exchanged for Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms dealer known as the “Merchant of Death,”.
In a brief statement delivered from the Roosevelt Room of the White House, President Biden announced Ms. Griner’s release. Cherelle Griner, Ms. Griner’s wife, smiled while standing at his side. Ms. Griner was anticipated to arrive in San Antonio overnight and undergo testing at a U.S. army hospital.
“I spoke with Brittney Griner,” Mr. Biden stated. She is safe. She is on a plane. she is now returning home after being unlawfully detained and held in appalling conditions for months in Russia. (Also read: Virat Kohli Friendship With MS Dhoni, KL Rahul And Shikhar Dhawan)
Ms. Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and All-Star center for the W.N.B.A.’s Phoenix Mercury, had been imprisoned for nine years, which put her in the middle of a contentious geopolitical standoff between Washington and Moscow. She was arrested in February at a Moscow-area airport when customs officers discovered two vape cartridges in her luggage that contained hashish oil.
Russian state media release footage of the Brittney Griner and Viktor Bout prisoner swap: https://t.co/TuMxKvMmmI pic.twitter.com/xVgtQjrGbf
— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) December 8, 2022
As a result of the international sanctions imposed on Russia in reaction to its invasion of Ukraine one week after Ms. Griner was detained, her case gained international attention since she was perceived as a hostage held by Mr. Putin’s administration. She was transferred to a prison colony outside of Moscow, which caused the Biden administration’s efforts to negotiate a prisoner swap to delay for months.
The success in freeing Paul Whelan, another American who was detained by Russia despite months of attempts by U.S. diplomats to include him as part of an agreement with the Russians for the swap with Mr. Bout, dampened the celebration inside the West Wing on Thursday.
Even as they welcomed Ms. Griner’s release, several Republicans blasted the administration for trading her for Mr. Bout, claiming the arrangement would embolden enemies to kidnap more Americans. (Also read: Gal Gadot Height, Age, Husband, Weight, Gal Gadot Biography)
Mr. Whelan, a former Marine who later worked as a corporate security officer, was detained in a Moscow hotel in December 2018 and found guilty of fabricating espionage accusations two months later in June 2020.
The Biden administration made the right choice to bring Ms. Griner home and to make the deal that was feasible rather than waiting for one that was not going to happen, according to Mr. Whelan’s brother David in an email to supporters, but he added that “it’s clear the U.S. government needs to be more assertive.” (Also read: Biography: How Tall Ryan Gosling, Ryan Gosling Height, Weight, Age, Wife, Net Worth)
Russians made it plain in recent weeks, according to a senior White House official, that Mr. Biden would decide to sanction a one-for-one swap (Ms. Griner for Mr. Bout) and that they were unwilling to discuss the release of Mr. Whelan.
The President Made the Painful Decision
The official claimed that the president made “the painful decision” to proceed and asked to remain anonymous to discuss the talks.
Mr. Biden promised to keep pushing for Mr. Whelan’s release in his speech at the White House.
Unfortunately, Russia is handling Paul’s case differently than Brittney’s for absolutely ridiculous reasons, he said. And although we haven’t yet been successful in getting Paul’s release, we’re not giving up. Never will we give up. (Also read: 12 Amazing Health Benefits Of Makhana)
The Griner family expressed gratitude to the president and others in a statement later on Thursday.