The jet carrying Griner was seen landing at 4:30 a.m. According to a live feed, it is local time in San Antonio. Photos showed Griner deplaning. “So glad to have Brittney back on U.S. soil,” the U.S. special presidential envoy for hostage situations, Roger D. Carstens, tweeted Friday. “BG, welcome home! ”
Her wife, Cherelle Griner, and her parents were due to greet the Olympic gold medallist at a medical facility in San Antonio where she will be transported upon arrival, a senior administration official told CNBC on Thursday.
Brittney Griner freed in a deal for Russian ‘Merchant of Death’ Viktor Bout, a Russian arms trader known as the “merchant of death,” who had been sentenced to 25 years in Illinois for conspiring to murder Americans and supplying the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) with weapons, was exchanged for Griner on Thursday.
Bout is already in Moscow, Russian official media said Friday. He was spotted hugging his mother and wife when he arrived at an airport in the Russian capital in real-time. He told reporters, “They just woke me up in the middle of the night and told me to pack my belongings.
Griner’s return home after 10 months in a Russian prison was broadly hailed in the United States. The city hall in her native city of Houston was lit up in red, white, and blue in her honor Thursday night, said Mayor Sylvester Turner (D) (D). Speaking on Thursday at the White House, President Biden noted that the exchange was the outcome of a “painstaking and difficult” process.
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Others remarked on how unequal the prisoner swap was. Griner, who played for a Russian team in the WNBA offseason, was arrested days before Russia invaded Ukraine in February. She was found guilty of bringing into Russia vape cartridges containing less than a gram of cannabis oil, which is prohibited in the nation, and was given a 912-year prison term as a result. According to her attorneys, it had a medical prescription, and the State Department deemed her incarceration to be “wrongful.”
One of the most active arms dealers in the world was Bout, a 55-year-old former Soviet military interpreter. The inspiration for Nicolas Cage’s character in the Hollywood film “came from his transgressions, of which the United Nations had accused him of profiteering from selling weapons that stoked violent violence throughout the African continent.
Following a Drug Enforcement Administration sting, Bout was taken into custody in Thailand in 2008. He had been held in a unique, stringent facility known as “Little Guantánamo” at a federal prison in Marion, Illinois.
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The United Arab Emirates, a strong security ally of the United States that has also welcomed numerous Russians following sanctions imposed on Moscow during the invasion of Ukraine, enabled the swap. In edited footage from Russian state media, Griner and Bout may be seen briefly passing one another on a runaway in Abu Dhabi. “We’ve been working toward this day for a very long time. We never gave up trying to get her out,” Biden stated.