WNBA star Brittney Griner arrived again in the USA early Friday after being free of Russian custody, bringing a virtually yearlong ordeal to an finish.
Griner may very well be seen climbing down the steps of a aircraft shortly after it arrived at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas earlier than 6 a.m. EST.
“So completely satisfied to have Brittney again on U.S. soil. Welcome residence BG!” Particular Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens tweeted shortly after.
Griner, 32, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and middle for the Phoenix Mercury, was freed Thursday in a prisoner alternate between the U.S. and Russia. A senior administration official mentioned that Griner could be flown to a San Antonio medical facility.
The U.S. freed Viktor Bout, an arms seller referred to as the “Service provider of Demise,” who was serving a 25-year jail sentence handed down by a choose in 2012.
In earlier video, Russian media had confirmed Griner crossing paths with Bout after strolling off a Russian aircraft in Abu Dhabi, the place she was met by a U.S. official through the alternate. Russian representatives greeted Bout with a hug and the arms seller was later proven by Russian media strolling off a aircraft in Moscow, the place kinfolk ready with flowers embraced him.
Griner was sentenced in August in a Russian court docket to 9 years in jail for allegedly possessing a vape cartridges of hashish oil in her baggage, which she mentioned was unintentional. She was being held at a penal colony.
U.S. officers mentioned the athlete had been wrongfully detained by Russia. President Joe Biden, who mentioned he authorized the deal that noticed Griner freed, mentioned Thursday that she had been “held underneath insupportable circumstances.”
The prisoner swap is without doubt one of the most high-profile to have taken place between Moscow and Washington for the reason that Chilly Battle.
The Biden administration had confronted vital strain to assist convey residence Griner, along with her teammates, household and associates, in addition to a variety of U.S. celebrities, lobbying for her return.
In a written assertion Thursday night time, the Griner household thanked Biden, his administration and others for his or her efforts.
“We sincerely thanks all for the type phrases, ideas and prayers — together with Paul and the Whelan household who’ve been beneficiant with their assist for Brittney and our household throughout what we all know is a heartbreaking time,” the household mentioned. “We pray for Paul and for the swift and secure return of all wrongfully-detained People.”
The household requested for privateness “as we embark on this street to therapeutic.”
Griner’s spouse, Cherelle Griner, on Thursday thanked Biden and his administration, and mentioned she was “overwhelmed with feelings,” however that her ideas have been additionally with the household of Paul Whelan, an American nonetheless detained in Russia.
Whelan’s household mentioned that they had been informed by the Biden administration upfront that he wouldn’t be a part of the prisoner swap Thursday that freed Griner.
Whelan’s brother, David Whelan, mentioned in an announcement that whereas he can “actually solely think about the enjoyment she may have, being reunited along with her family members, and in time for the vacations,” the lack to additionally convey Whelan house is tough for the household to course of.
Chantal Da Silva and Related Press contributed.