American basketball star Brittney Griner , detained in Russia for more than nine months, was released on Thursday December 8 as part of a prisoner exchange with Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, convicted in 2012 in the United States.
The exchange took place Thursday at Abu Dhabi airport, the Russian foreign ministry said. Brittney Griner immediately boarded a plane bound for the United States, where she is expected within the next twenty-four hours.
The exchange took place Thursday at Abu Dhabi airport, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced on Telegram.
“A few moments ago I spoke with Brittney Griner. She is safe. She is on a plane. She is on her way to the United States,” US President Joe Biden said in brief remarks at the White House.
“I also want to thank the United Arab Emirates for having facilitated the release of Brittney”, he continued, specifying that the sportswoman had “good morale” despite “the trauma” endured.
US-Russian talks for the swap described as “intense and laborious” by Joe Biden have continued in recent months, despite tensions related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine early this year.
Brittney Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and figure in the Women’s National Basketball Association, was arrested at Moscow-Sheremetyevo airport on February 17, a week before the start of Russia’s offensive in Ukraine, with cigarette cartons electronic device containing cannabis oil in his luggage.
The basketball player, who has a prescription authorizing the therapeutic use of cannabis in the United States to relieve chronic pain, was sentenced in August to nine years in prison by Russian justice for drug possession and trafficking. After her appeal was rejected, she was transferred in November to a penal colony in Mordovia, in central Russia.