Brittney Griner is freed in prison swap for Russian ‘Merchant of Death’

WNBA basketball player Brittney Griner is on her way back to America after Russia accepted a prisoner swap.

From Fox News:

Brittney Griner was arrested in February before the start of the Russia and Ukraine war for bringing in vape cartridges containing oils derived from cannabis through a Moscow airport as she was returning to the country to play for a basketball league in the country.

About 10 months later and weeks before the Christmas holiday, Griner is coming home.

Griner was freed from a Russian penal colony on Thursday in a prisoner exchange for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, a U.S. official confirmed to Fox News.

U.S. and Russian officials have expressed optimism in recent weeks about a potential deal for Griner. A top Russian official said last week that a deal was possible before year’s end.

President Biden tweeted about Griner’s release. He was seen in pictures with Vice President Harris and Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner.

“Moments ago I spoke to Brittney Griner,” the tweet read. “She is safe. She is on a plane. She is on her way home.”

Griner was arrested at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow on Feb. 17 after Russian authorities said she had vape cartridges with cannabis oil inside her luggage. On Aug. 4, Griner was given a nine-year sentence after pleading guilty, arguing that she had been prescribed cannabis for her pain and inadvertently packed it. Her sentence was upheld in October and she was later transferred to a penal colony.

Bout is known as the “Merchant of Death” and the possibly swap for him was floated back in May. He was in the middle of a 25-year sentence in federal prison after he was convicted of conspiracy to kill Americans relating to the support of a Colombian terrorist organization.

He was dubbed the “Merchant of Death” because of his notoriety for running a fleet of aging Soviet-era cargo planes to conflict-ridden hotspots in Africa. His dealings inspired the Nicolas Cage film “Lord of War.”

Paul Whelan, another American imprisoned in Russia, was not a part of the swap. He’s been jailed on espionage charges that his family and the U.S. government have said are baseless.

 

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