Brittney Griner, an American basketball star who was detained by Russian authorities in February, has safely returned to the United States after being freed in a prisoner exchange.
A State Department official told media that Griner, who is 32, arrived at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, early on Friday and was taken to Brooke Army Medical Center for a routine checkup.
John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, told CNN that US officials who met Griner said she was “in good spirits” and “very kind.” Griner got off the plane just after 5:30 in the morning. Kelly Field. ET.
“I’m so glad Britney is back in the US. BG, welcome home! ” Roger Carstens, who works for the State Department and is travelling with Griner, wrote on Twitter early Friday morning.
Griner’s release was made possible by a prisoner swap between the US and Russia. Viktor Bout, an international arms dealer who was arrested in Thailand in 2008 and sent to the US in 2010, was swapped for Griner.
The White House said that Bout’s commutation was finalised when US officials saw Griner on the Abu Dhabi airport tarmac, where the exchange took place. President Joe Biden signed Bout’s official commutation on December 2, according to a document on the Justice Department website.
In a joint statement, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia said that the Gulf countries helped get the US and Russia to talk to each other.
Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Kremlin, said Friday that the exchange is not a sign that relations between the US and Russia are getting better.
- A Man Made Threats With A Knife Outside Sojourner House, According To The Police
- Morgantown Police Caught A Man Suspected Of Killing Someone In Philadelphia
Griner’s arrest and conviction happened against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It also brought more attention to the cases of Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed, two other Americans being held in Russian prisons. In the most recent prisoner swap, Whelan’s release was not possible, but Reed came back to the US in April after nearly three years in prison.
The Biden administration said Friday that it will keep talking with Russia to get Whelan’s release. A senior administration official told the media that Russians “have things they want in this world” and that Moscow knows the two sides will reach “an arrangement that works for both of us” if they keep talking to us.
Biden said it took “painful and intense negotiations” to get Griner back home, and he thanked the members of his administration who worked on it.
“We’ve been working for a long time to get to this day. We never stopped trying to get her out of jail,” he said on Thursday.
Senior US administration officials said that the final deal was made over the course of 48 hours. This started the process of getting Griner out of the prison colony where she was serving a long sentence. An official with knowledge of the situation said that Biden gave his final approval for the prisoner swap that freed Griner last week.
The Russian foreign ministry said Thursday that Bout had gone back to Russia. The ministry said Thursday that the prisoner exchange with Griner was “completed successfully at Abu Dhabi Airport.”
In a statement on Thursday, Griner’s family thanked Biden and his administration, as well as former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, whose Richardson Center helped the family get Griner’s release. They also said they were thankful for all the support they’ve gotten from the public.
“We sincerely thank everyone for their kind words, thoughts, and prayers, especially Paul and the Whelan family, who have done a lot to help Brittney and our family through this heartbreaking time,” the statement said.
“We pray for Paul and for the quick and safe return of everyone who was taken wrongfully,”