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Basketball player Brittney Griner was released after a prisoner swap with Russia

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American basketball player Brittney Griner was released in Russia after a prisoner exchange between Moscow and Washington. In return, the United States released arms dealer Victor Bout, government sources told The Associated Press. However, this agreement does not include a second US citizen who has been detained in Russia since 2018 and whom President Biden also wanted to release.

The White House released several images this Thursday of President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris speaking on the phone with Griner, the basketball player’s wife, Cheryl Griner, from the Oval Office. “I spoke with Brittney Griner a few minutes ago“- said the message. “You’re safe. He’s on a plane. He’s on his way home.”

The exchange culminated in the arrest of Griner, 32, a two-time Olympic gold medalist with Team USA who was detained a week before Russia invaded Ukraine. Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison for drug possession and smuggling, and his arrest and sentence increased pressure on Biden to release him.

According to Russian diplomacy, the exchange of prisoners was completed on Thursday at the Abu Dhabi airport, although it is not yet known when Griner will set foot on US soil. Speaking from the White House, Biden added that the United Arab Emirates helped secure the player’s release.

“After months of illegal detention in Russia under unbearable conditions, Britney will soon be with her loved ones, where she should have been all along,” Biden said. The president acknowledged that while Griner is achieving freedom, the United States has not achieved the same for his compatriot Paul Whelan, a US Marine who is serving a 16-year sentence in Russia for spying.

“It was never a question of which one to bring home.” Biden accused Russia of treating the Whelan case “completely differently” from the player. “Although we have not succeeded in releasing them yet, we will not give up. We never give up.”

In return, Russia obtains the return of Bout, nicknamed the “Merchant of Death” in the US, who was serving a 25-year prison sentence for espionage. Last November, Russian Deputy Foreign Secretary Sergei Ryabkov said that Moscow’s goal was to recover the bot. The arms dealer was arrested in Thailand in March 2008 and extradited to the US in November 2010.

Shortly afterwards, US diplomats in Russia said they had made a “significant” proposal to the Russian authorities, which also included several alternatives in the absence of an agreement. Reuters revealed at the time that the proposal included the firing of Griner and Whelan. During his appearance, Biden reiterated that he remains committed to Whelan’s release.

Source: El Diario

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