Celebrity News December 08, 2022
Brittney Griner Released from Russian Custody in Prisoner Swap
President Biden announced Thursday that WNBA star Brittney Griner has been released from Russian custody following a prisoner swap.
CBS News reports the U.S. traded international arms dealer Victor Bout for Griner’s freedom.
President Biden reportedly signed off on the deal with Moscow this week, and the exchange took place Thursday in the United Arab Emirates.
Biden spoke with Brittney from the Oval Office with the basketball player’s wife, Cherelle Griner, by his side,
He tweeted, “Moments ago I spoke to Brittney Griner. She is safe. She is on a plane. She is on her way home.”
Moments ago I spoke to Brittney Griner.— President Biden (@POTUS) December 8, 2022 @POTUS
She is safe.
She is on a plane.
She is on her way home. pic.twitter.com/FmHgfzrcDT
Biden also gave remarks at a press conference, saying, “This is a day we’ve worked toward for a long time and never stopped pushing for her release. It took painstaking intense negotiations.”
Cherelle also spoke, saying she was "overwhelmed with emotion," and expressed "sincere gratitude for President Biden and his Administration."
She added that she and Brittney will continue working toward the release of other Americans detained in Russia, including Paul Whelan.
Biden also addressed the fact that Whelan has been in Russian custody for years. “We have not forgotten about Paul Whelan,” he said, adding, “This was not a choice of which American to bring home. We brought home Trevor Reed when we had a chance earlier this year. Sadly, for totally illegitimate reasons, Russia is treating Paul’s case differently than Brittney's… We are not giving up, we will never give up.”
Whelan's family was supportive of the swap. In a statement, they said, "I can literally only imagine the joy she will have, being reunited with her loved ones, and in time for the holidays. There is no greater success than for a wrongful detainee to be freed and for them to go home. The Biden Administration made the right decision to bring Ms. Griner home, and to make the deal that was possible, rather than waiting for one that wasn't going to happen."
Watch President Biden’s full video below.
Tune in as I deliver an important announcement. https://t.co/2BVdSsmIFA— President Biden (@POTUS) December 8, 2022 @POTUS
In August, Griner was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison and fined more than $16,000 for allegedly smuggling drugs into the country.
Brittney was arrested in February at the Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow with less than one gram of cannabis oil in her luggage. She later pleaded guilty to drug charges in hopes of receiving leniency.