After months of negotiations, President Biden and his administration were finally able to secure the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner from a Russian prison. In a one-for-one prisoner swap deal, the United States and Russia agreed to exchange Griner for arms dealer Viktor Bout who had been held in U.S. prisons on a 25+ year sentence. Griner, who had been in prison since last summer, is now on her way home after a grueling battle for her freedom.
A White House official confirmed that President Biden spoke with Brittney from the Oval Office on Thursday morning, with Vice President Kamala Harris also present in the room.
Brittney Griner is the WNBA player who was to play overseas and was caught by authorities for smuggling a small dose of drugs which Russia used as an opportunity to hold her without bail. President Biden had been trying to negotiate with Russian president Putin, but he declined all attempts at negotiation. However, after President Putin discovered that President Obama would be signing the Moscow-Washington Trade Agreement on September 14th, he finally agreed to release Brittney Griner as well.
Brittney was sentenced to 9 1/2 years in prison after being found guilty of drug possession and smuggling by a Russian court back in August. When her legal team filed to appeal the verdict back in October, their motion was rejected.
President Biden, who had been trying to negotiate with Russian president Vladimir Putin for weeks, stepped up his efforts as he knew she would be sentenced on November 10th. On that day he met with Putin at Moscow’s Kremlin Palace and discussed the situation with him one-on-one. A little over an hour later they emerged out of talks to announce that Putin had agreed to release Brittney on humanitarian grounds so long as there were no pending cases against her or claims for restitution in Russia. The only way she was going to get her freedom was through a potential prisoner swap deal between the U.S. and Russia.
After undergoing a medical evaluation following her release from prison, she left Russia aboard a US plane headed for Las Vegas where she will be reunited with her wife Cherelle and their two children.