Brittney Griner is back in the United States. The WNBA star was seen landing at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas on Friday morning after being released from Russian custody in a prisoner swap for a Russian arms dealer, according to PEOPLE. Griner was arrested in Russia in February on drug smuggling charges and was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison. She was released in a one-for-one prisoner swap for international arms dealer Viktor Bout on Thursday.
Before Griner's release, she was seen speaking about it to Russian media. She said, "I'm good" while boarding the aircraft while also adding she was "ready" to go home. As soon as Griner's release from prison was announced, WNBA commissioner Cather Englebert released a statement.
Brittney Griner returned to the United States early Friday after being freed in a high-profile prisoner exchange following nearly 10 months in detention in Russia.— ESPN (@espn) December 9, 2022
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"There has not been a day over the past ten months where we all haven't had Brittney Griner on our minds and in our hearts and that has now turned into a collective wave of joy and relief knowing that she will soon be reunited with her family, the WNBA player community, and her friends," Englebert said. "BG has shown extraordinary courage and dignity in the face of enormous adversity. The WNBA is grateful beyond measure to the Biden Administration, the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, and all those who played a role in bringing BG home today. Our hope is that Paul Whelan and every wrongfully detained American will be returned home safely and as soon as possible."
Joe Biden and his staff worked to get Griner out of Russian custody, but they were also working to get Paul Whelan out of prison. Whelan is an American who remains jailed in Russia on espionage charges. "Moments ago, standing together with her wife Cherelle in the Oval Office, I spoke with Brittney Griner," Biden said in a press conference on Thursday. She's safe, she's on a plane, she's on her way home after months of being unjustly detained in Russia, held under intolerable circumstances."
Griner's wife Cherelle also spoke at the press conference. She said: "Over the last nine months, you all have been so privy to one of the darkest moments of my life, and so today I am just standing here overwhelmed with emotions, but the most important emotion I have right now is just sincere gratitude for President Biden and his entire administration."