After nine months of detention in Russia for cannabis possession, WNBA player Brittney Griner has been released and is on her way home to the United States.
“She’s safe, she’s on a plane, she’s on her way home,” President Biden said at the White House Thursday morning. “After months of being unjustly detained in Russia, held under untolerable circumstances, Brittney will soon be back in the arms of her loved ones, and she should have been there all along.”
Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, stood behind Biden next to Vice President Kamala Harris while he delivered the remarks. Biden then invited Cherelle to say a few words of her own from the podium.
“Today I’m just standing here overwhelmed with emotions but the most important emotion that I have now is just sincere gratitude for President Biden and his entire administration,” Cherelle said.
Brittney’s release was part of a one-for-one prisoner swap negotiated by the U.S. government, exchanging Griner for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. The exchange was completed successfully at the Abu Dhabi Airport on Thursday.
Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson released a statement saying, “Brittney is so much more than a WNBA superstar and Olympian, she is an American hero who had undergone unfathomable hardship. After being wrongfully held for 294 days away from her home, her friends, and most importantly her family, we celebrate her release.”