Brittney Griner returns to U.S. after launch from Russia

Brittney Griner returned to the U.S. early Friday after being freed in a extreme-profile prisoner alternate following almost 10 months in detention in Russia.

Griner was seen getting off a airplane that landed Friday at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas.

President Joe Biden spoke by cellphone with Griner, who was reunited collectively with her spouse, Cherelle. U.S. officers who met her upon arrival mentioned she was in glorious spirits and appeared to be in good well being, based mostly on White residence press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who famous that Griner can be provided specialised medical providers and counseling.

Griner had been detained in Russia for almost 10 months. She was exchanged for infamous arms supplier Viktor Bout on Thursday.

The alternate, made at a time of heightened tensions over the invasion of Ukraine, achieved a extreme objective for Biden however carried a heavy worth and left behind Paul Whelan, an American jailed for almost 4 years in Russia.

In an tackle from the White residence on Thursday, Biden mentioned that these “previous few months have been hell for Brittney” however that she was in good spirits.

“that is usually a day we have labored in the direction of for a very very prolonged time,” Biden mentioned. “We by no means stopped pushing for her launch. It took painstaking and intense negotiations, and that i want to thank all of the hardworking public servants throughout my administration who labored tirelessly to safe her launch.”

Cherelle Griner additionally spoke on the White residence and thanked an unbelievable deal of these that helped safe her spouse’s launch.

“at the second, my household is full, however as you all are conscious, there are so many utterly different households who aren’t full,” Cherelle Griner mentioned. “BG and that i am going to stay dedicated to the work of getting every American residence, collectively with Paul, whose household is in our hearts at the second as we have fun BG being residence.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the prisoner alternate Friday, saying extra U.S.-Russian exchanges are doable.

requested whether or not utterly different prisoners might very effectively be swapped, Putin replied that “all the pieces is doable,” noting that “compromises have been found” to clear the Thursday alternate of Griner for Bout.

“We aren’t refusing to proceed this work finally,” Putin mentioned.

Griner was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February when customs officers found vape canisters with hashish oil in her baggage. She pleaded responsible in July however nonetheless confronted a trial as a end result of admitting guilt in Russia’s judicial system would not mechanically finish a case. She was sentenced to 9 years and had been transferred to a penal colony in November.

She acknowledged in courtroom that she possessed the canisters however mentioned she had no authorized intent and that their presence in her baggage was as a consequence of hasty packing.

The U.S. State division had declared Griner to be “wrongfully detained” — a cost Russia sharply rejected.

In releasing Bout, the U.S. freed a former Soviet army lieutenant colonel whom the Justice division as quickly as described as thought of one of many world’s most prolific arms sellers. He was arrested in Thailand in 2008 and extradited to the U.S. in 2010.

Bout was serving a 25-yr sentence on prices that he conspired to promote tens of tens of millions of dollars in weapons that U.S officers mentioned have been to be used in the direction of people.

Whelan, a Michigan agency safety authorities, has been imprisoned in Russia since December 2018 on espionage prices that his household and the U.S. authorities have mentioned are baseless.

The associated Press contributed to this report.