The American basketball player Brittney Griner is being evaluated physically and mentally in a Texas army facility as part of her rehabilitation to the US after being released from over 10 months of detention in Russia in a prisoner swap with the notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout. The Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio is debriefing the two-time Olympic gold champion.
She returned to the United States on Friday morning and was taken for what was being referred to as “intensive health evaluations” right away. John Kirby, the strategic communications coordinator for the national security council, said on This Week on ABC News on Sunday that early signs suggested Griner was doing well. She is well and in very good spirits, he remarked.
The political consequences from her high-profile prisoner exchange with Bout persisted as the WNBA and Olympic champion gradually re-entered US society. The ongoing predicament of other Americans jailed by Russia who was not part of the Kremlin bargain, such as the released marine Paul Whelan who had already served nearly four years of a 16-year sentence for alleged spying, also became public knowledge.
Negotiations over Whelan are still going on, according to Roger Carstens, Joe Biden’s special presidential envoy for hostage affairs. “We have a continued open dialogue with the Russians and we have the commitment of the president, and my office, to bring Paul Whelan home,” he said on State of the Union.
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A day after the deal guaranteeing Griner’s release was announced, Carstens recalled speaking with Whelan in a Russian jail and assuring him that the US government was dedicated to returning him home. According to him, he told Whelan to “maintain the faith, we’re coming for you.”
In response to criticism that they should have obtained Griner and Whelan’s release in exchange for such a well-known arms dealer, the White House has insisted that a two-for-one deal was never planned. A specific suggestion to get both people out had been made to the Russians, according to Carstens, but “it didn’t land anywhere.”
It was evident that they were treating Paul extremely differently as a result of the false espionage accusations they had brought against him, he continued.
Republicans and others have continued to criticize the Biden administration for allowing a notorious arms dealer to walk free. Bout, known as the “merchant of death,” received a 25-year prison term for conspiring to kill Americans and supplying the FARC with weapons in Colombia.
The publication of Bout has been criticized as being “very distressing” by a Democratic senator from New Jersey and chair of the foreign relations committee, Bob Menendez. He claimed that would encourage dictators to kidnap people. He said, “We must cease allowing autocratic and rogue regimes to utilize Americans as pawns abroad.”
Leading Republicans have been criticizing Biden with arguments similar to these. Mike Pompeo, the outgoing secretary of state under Donald Trump, said on Fox News on Sunday that Iran and other adversarial governments like Vladimir Putin would be aided. “Trading bad guys for celebrities gives the bad guys the wrong incentives,” he claimed.
In his CNN interview, Carstens admitted that it had been challenging to decide to reach an agreement with Russia. He added that Biden had pushed new sanctions against person kidnapping hostages abroad that he had promised would be implemented shortly, adding that it was difficult to prevent these dictators and authoritarian nations from trying to use Americans as bargaining chips.
In addition, Carstens revealed additional information about how he met Griner in Abu Dhabi as part of the prisoner exchange and later accompanied her back to the US. She had talked for nearly 12 hours of the 18-hour flight, including about her ordeal in Russia. The envoy stated, “I had the feeling that this is a person who is patriotic, bright, passionate, sympathetic, humble, and interesting.
After being detained at a Russian airport and charged with possessing vape cartridges containing cannabis oil, Griner was given a 9.5-year prison term. The basketball player claimed that she had packed the canisters incorrectly and provided documentation proving that the cannabis had been prescribed to her as a pain reliever.
Bout claimed to have spoken with Griner on the tarmac in Abu Dhabi, according to RT, the state-run television network in Russia. He stated, “I wished her good luck, she even extended her hand,” according to a Washington Post report. RT questioned Bout about whether Griner had spoken to him. Yes, he answered, “and I thought she was supportive of me.”
It is impossible to independently verify the assertion. Griner has not responded, and the manipulated camera footage that Russian official media has made public appears to have been clipped at the very moment that any direct interaction between the two people would have occurred.