After a prisoner swap in Abu Dhabi, US basketball player Britney Griner has now landed back in the United States, after being exchanged with Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
Griner was arrested in February on charges of attempting to smuggle drugs into Russia. She was detained in a Russian airport after Cannabis oil was found in her luggage.
Her arrest was thrown into a geopolitical dispute between the United States and Russia, with tensions simmering at the time with the War in Ukraine. US president Joe Biden came under scrutiny for not intervening to retrieve the American sooner.
But he did welcome the news of Griner’s release, standing beside the basketball star’s wife, saying that Griner "is in good spirits".
The 'Merchant of Death'
Viktor Bout was welcomed home to his mother and wife with tears in his eyes. Known as the "Merchant of Death", he was arrested in 2008 in a sting operation in Thailand by the FBI trying to smuggle weapons. He was then extradited in 2010 to the United States.
Griner’s release does highlight another issue. Canadian-born and former US marine Paul Whelan is still imprisoned in Russia since 2019, on suspicion of spying. A senior official spoke at length with Whelan about Wednesday’s news.
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