WNBA star Brittney Griner was freed in a prisoner swap for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer, concluding the whirlwind of delicate negotiations between Russia and the United States.
The United Arab Emirates facilitated the release. According to BBC news, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman shares a relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and assisted in co-ordinating swaps of hundreds of prisoners held by Russia and Ukraine.
Two private planes reportedly brought Griner and Bout to Abu Dhabi airport from Moscow and Washington.
The big story
Griner was imprisoned for months in Russian prisons and was sentenced to 9 years after she was found with vape cartridges of cannabis oil in her luggage in February.
Bout was sentenced to 25 years in US prisons for conspiracy to kill Americans and has become known as the ‘Merchant of Death’ because he was a gun runner and ran fleets of Soviet-era cargo planes to Africa. He provided support to terrorist organizations and inspired the film, “Lord of War.”
What President Biden says
“She’s safe. She’s on a plane,” Biden said in brief remarks at the White House Thursday morning. “She’s on her way home. After months of being unjustly detained in Russia, held under intolerable circumstances, Brittney will soon be back in the arms of her loved ones and she should have been there all along. This is a day we’ve worked toward for a long time. We never stopped pushing for her release.”