Brittney Griner released from Russian jail after US strikes a deal

Brittney Griner

US basketballer Brittney Griner is back in the USA after being released from a Russian prison. Her release comes after the US agreed to release a Russian arms dealer in exchange for the sporting star.

The 31-year-old player, who is a part of the LGBTIQA+ communities, was detained in Mid-February after Russian custom officials found vape cartridges that contained hashish oil in her luggage.

Griner pleaded guilty to the charge and was sentenced to nine years in prison, as well as being required to pay a million rubles fine (AUD$23,900). Griner is a top player in the US WNBL and has played on the USA’s Olympic winning Basketball team. She was travelling to Russia to play with a local team during the WNBL off-season.

The White House announced that they had struck a deal with Russian authorities, in return for the release of Griner the USA has released arms dealer Viktor Bout from custody. President Joe Biden said the deal had been achieved after “painstaking and intense negotiations.”

President Biden posted new of the deal to his Twitter account alongside photos of Griner’s wife Cherelle joining him in the Oval Office where the pair had spoken to the newly free Griner on the phone.

Cherelle Griner thanked everyone who had worked to secure her spouse’s release.

“Over the last nine months you all have been so privy to one of the darkest moments of my life,” she said.

“So today I’m standing here overwhelmed with emotions, but the most important emotion I have is just sincere gratitude.”

Speaking to the media President Biden said Griner had been unjustly detained and held under intolerable conditions.

“These past few months have been hell for Brittney and Cherelle, and her entire family, and all her teammates back home. People all across the country have learned about Brittney’s story, advocated for her release and heard about her terrible ordeal. ” President Biden said.

While the administration has successfully secured Griner’s release, critics have questioned if the release of arms dealer Bout was too high a price to pay. President Biden has also been criticised for failing to secure the release of Paul Whelan, a Michigan corporate security executive jailed in Russia since December 2018 on espionage charges.

President Biden said his administration would continue to fight for the release of Whelan.

“Sadly and for totally illegitimate reasons, Russia is treating Paul’s case differently from Brittney’s,” he said.

“And while we have not yet succeeded in securing Paul’s release, we are not giving up. We will never give up.”

OIP Staff


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