WNBA athlete Brittney Griner was freed from Russian prison to the UAE as part of a prisoner exchange for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, according to several media reports Thursday morning.
President Joe Biden addressed the nation on the swap at 8:30 a.m. EST and thanked the UAE.
“I’m glad we’re able to see that Britney’s in good spirits, and she’s relieved to finally be getting home,” the president said to the nation while
“She represents the best about America across the board, everything about her… She didn’t ask for special treatment, she just said please don’t forget about me and the other detainees…” Biden said in a reference to Paul Whelan.
Biden indicated the U.S. would “never give up” on getting Whelan other American detainees home and said they would continue to negotiate in “good faith.” We’re going to continue to work to bring home any American… make no mistake this work is not easy, negotiations are always difficult… but welcome home, Britney.”
Shortly before the national address the president tweeted, “Moments ago I spoke to Brittney Griner. She is safe. She is on a plane. She is on her way home.”
Griner pleaded guilty in July to drug charges after she was charged in February after Russian authorities found a cannabis vape in her luggage in a Moscow-area airport. She was sentenced to nine years in prison and sent to a forced labor camp.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken in July said the U.S. offered to repatriate Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan, who is serving a hard labor sentence after being arrested in 2018 and convicted of espionage charges.
Bout, a former U.S.S.R. Army lieutenant colonel, was convicted in 2011 of conspiring to kill Americans and support terrorists, including Colombia’s FARC guerilla army.