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Brittney Griner Freed By Russian Authorities In Exchange For Arms Dealer Viktor Bout

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Brittney Griner Freed By Russian Authorities In Exchange For Arms Dealer Viktor Bout

(CTN NEWS) – Brittney Griner, an incarcerated American basketball player, and Viktor Bout, a renowned arms dealer who spent 12 years in an American prison, have been traded by the U.S. and Russia.

Brittney Griner is safe and returning home from the United Arab Emirates, according to President Joe Biden.

At the White House, he stated, “I’m happy to report Brittney is in good spirits… she needs time and space to recover.”

Griner was detained for having cannabis oil at a Moscow airport in February, and he was later transferred to a prison camp.

In July, the Biden administration suggested a prisoner swap, knowing that Moscow had long demanded Bout’s release.

Brittney Griner Freed By Russian Authorities In Exchange For Arms Dealer Viktor Bout

U.S. President Joe Biden announces the release of WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner by Russia, as her wife Cherelle Griner listens, during an appearance in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, U.S. December 8, 2022.

Two private aircraft flew the duo from Moscow and Washington, respectively, to Abu Dhabi airport for the elaborate swap, then flew back home.

They allegedly passed each other on the airport tarmac as they went by.

The Russian foreign ministry said, “The Russian citizen has been returned to his hometown.”

He called his family a few hours later to let them know he was back in Russia. According to reports, his aircraft made a refuelling stop in the Dagestan region, three hour flight from Moscow.

Cherelle Griner, Brittney Griner’s wife, expressed her gratitude for the Biden administration’s efforts in gaining her release in the Oval Office, saying, “I’m just standing here overwhelmed with emotions.”

U.S. President Joe Biden announces the release of WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner by Russia, as her wife Cherelle Griner listens, during an appearance in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, U.S. December 8, 2022.

Cherelle Griner talks about the release by Russia of her wife, WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner, during an appearance with U.S. President Joe Biden in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, U.S. December 8, 2022.

According to a joint Saudi-UAE statement, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan played key roles in the mediation efforts.

The Saudi heir to the throne enjoys good ties with Vladimir Putin of Russia, and in September, he assisted in organizing a complicated exchange of hundreds of captives held by Russia and Ukraine.

The U.S. made it plain that it wanted ex-marine Paul Whelan to be a part of an exchange when discussions to obtain Griner’s release during the summer began.

But it soon became apparent that Whelan, imprisoned in 2018 on spying charges, would not be included in the Russian exchange, shattering hopes for his family.

On Russian television, Alexei Tarasov, Bout’s attorney, said that the U.S. had always demanded the release of two of its citizens, and Russia’s foreign ministry lamented that “Washington categorically refuses to engage in talks.”

Given that he had committed no crime, Paul Whelan told CNN that he was “greatly unhappy” that more hadn’t been done to secure his release. “I don’t know why I’m still waiting here,” he added.

 Cherelle Griner talks about the release by Russia of her wife, WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner, during an appearance with U.S. President Joe Biden in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, U.S. December 8, 2022.

Members of a special police unit escort suspected Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout after a hearing at a criminal court in Bangkok on October 5, 2010. REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang/File Photo

Bout’s 25-year prison sentence was finally commuted by President Biden, who directly swapped Brittney Griner for Bout.

“Ultimately, as we have seen, the deal was conducted one for one. Since a true exchange should involve an equal exchange, “Mister Tarasov added.

Alla, Bout’s wife, claimed on Russian TV that she had only spoken to him two days prior: “He was slated to give me a call tonight. We’ll now meet up and give each other hugs. Better than any phone call, that.”

One of the most sought persons in the world, Viktor Bout supplied weapons to warlords and despotic regimes.

The Russian’s deeds inspired the 2005 Hollywood film Lord of War, which was partially based on his life.

And earned him the moniker “merchant of death” for running guns in the years following the fall of the Soviet Union.

An extensive U.S. sting operation in 2008 resulted in his arrest at a hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, ending his covert career, to the chagrin of the Russian government.

After being deported two years later, he has spent the last 12 years sulking in an American prison for plotting to aid terrorists and assassinate Americans.

The situation facing Bout and his counterpart in the prisoner swap could not be more unlike.

One of the most well-known sportswomen in America is Brittney Griner, 32. During the U.S. basketball season, the two-time Olympic champion plays centre for Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA.

HONEST MISTAKE

She only travelled to Moscow because she had a game in Russia during the U.S. off-season. She claimed at her Russian trial that the marijuana oil discovered in her suitcase was an “honest mistake.”

President Biden included a tweet picture of himself and Brittney Griner’s wife, Cherelle, taken in the Oval Office.

“I just had a conversation with Brittney Griner. She’s secure. She’s in the air. She is travelling home, “He composed. Soon after, they both made public statements broadcast live on US TV networks.

Presidential envoy Roger Carstens, travelling with Brittney Griner from the UAE, was singled out for praise by Secretary of State Antony Blinken for his efforts.

Leading U.S. basketball figures hailed her release, including two-time WNBA champion Breanna Stewart of the Seattle Storm.

Last month, Brittney Griner was transferred to a penitentiary camp in Mordovia, a secluded region located 500 kilometres (310 miles) southeast of Moscow.

She was detained not far from the prison where spying defendant Paul Whelan is receiving a 16-year sentence.

President Biden claimed that Russia had treated Whelan’s case differently than Brittney Griner’s for wholly unjustified grounds in his statement.

While we haven’t yet been able to secure Paul’s release, he swore, “We haven’t given up; we won’t give up.”

David Whelan, the brother of Paul Whelan, applauded Brittney Griner’s release and said that U.S. officials had informed the family beforehand that Paul Whelan was not included in the trade.

He stated, “it’s obvious the U.S. administration needs to be more proactive.” “The United States needs a quicker, more direct response if evil actors like Russia are going to seize innocent Americans.”

The Biden administration’s compromise was denounced by former White House national security adviser John Bolton as a surrender rather than a swap.

Saying that “terrorists and rogue nations all over the world will take note of this, and it endangers other Americans in the future.”

Russia and the U.S. have exchanged prisoners before this year, including on Thursday.

Before being exchanged for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot found guilty of smuggling cocaine, last April; US Marine Trevor Reed served three years in prison for assault.

Speaking from a Russian jail colony, Paul Whelan claimed that because he had been charged with spying, Russia “placed me at a level higher than what they did with Trevor and Brittney.”

Before their international journey, Americans were cautioned by Vice President Biden to exercise caution and be aware of the possibility of being unlawfully imprisoned by a foreign government.

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