U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner has been released from a Russian penal colony after being sentenced to nine years in prison in August.
U.S. President Joe Biden confirmed Griner’s release, saying she was safe and would be arriving home in the next 24 hours.
Griner, who is a two-time Olympic gold medallist and a WNBA All-Star, was found guilty on drug charges, and was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison.
This came after she arrived in Moscow in February to play professionally and cannabis oil was discovered in her luggage at the airport.
Griner pleaded guilty to the charges, but said she had “no intent” to break the law. The U.S. Government said she had been “wrongfully detained”.
Earlier today, the White House confirmed that Griner had been released from her Russian penal colony, and had travelled to Moscow to prepare for her return to the U.S.
To secure Griner’s release, the White House engaged in a ‘prisoner swap’ with a Russian national detained in the U.S.
Viktor Bout, a Russian prisoner who was convicted in 2011 for selling weapons to terrorist groups, has been detained in the U.S. for over 12 years. He will now be released as part of the swap deal.
Griner’s wife, Cherelle, said today she was “overwhelmed with emotions”.
“Today, my family is whole,” she said.
Commissioner of the WNBA, Cathy Engelbert, said there was a “collective wave of joy and relief knowing that [Griner] will soon be reunited with her family”.
“[Griner] has shown extraordinary courage and dignity in the face of enormous adversity… The WNBA is grateful beyond measure to… all those who played a role in bringing [her] home today.”