After a nearly yearlong ordeal, Brittney Griner has been released from Russian detention today, 8 December, according to CNN. The outlet also reports that she was exchanged for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. According to an unnamed US official, the WNBA star is now in the custody of the US and her family has been informed of her release.
Griner has been detained in Russia since February, when she was first arrested at Sheremetyevo International Airport near Moscow for possession of vape cartridges containing cannabis oil, which is illegal in Russia. Since then Griner’s case has received worldwide attention as she and her family pleaded with President Biden to bring her home.
In July, Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed that the Biden administration had presented a “substantial proposal” to Russia, which reportedly included trading Griner and Paul Whelan, an accused spy who was arrested in Russia at the end of 2018, for Viktor Bout. However, per CNN, the swap on December 8 that released Griner does not include Whelan.
Following the news of Griner’s release, President Biden shared photos of himself with her wife, Cherelle Griner, with the caption “Moments ago I spoke to Brittney Griner. She is safe. She is on a plane. She is on her way home.”
PHOENIX, ARIZONA – OCTOBER 06: Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury during the first half in Game Four of the 2021 WNBA semifinals at Footprint Center on October 06, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
At the GLAMOUR Woman of the Year awards on 1 November, Cherelle gave a poignant speech describing the uncertainty and despair she’s felt over the past year. “I’ve spent the last eight months riding waves of grief and to be honest, just total disbelief,” she told guests, which included Women of the Year Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson, Shannon Watts, and the Haim sisters. “I can’t believe that I’m standing in front of you guys today and living without with my favourite person, my greatest love, my sanctuary.”