WASHINGTON (AP) — Russia has freed WNBA star Brittney Griner is a dramatic high-level prisoner exchange, with the U.S. releasing notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
The swap comes at a time of heightened tensions over Ukraine and it achieved a top goal for President Joe Biden. But it also carried a heavy price, with American Paul Whelan still detained in Russia on espionage charges that his family and the U.S. government says baseless.
Biden says Griner is “safe, she’s on a plane, she’s on her way home,.”
He spoke from the White House, where he was accompanied by Griner’s wife, Cherelle, and administration officials.
Griner’s monthslong imprisonment on drug charges brought unprecedented attention to the population of wrongful detainees.
The all-star center with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and two-time Olympic gold medalist was convicted Aug. 4 after police said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage at a Moscow airport. She was sentenced to nine years in a penal colony.