American basketball star Brittney Griner arrived in the USA on Friday morning after she was launched from a Russian jail in alternate for an arms vendor referred to as the “Merchant of Death.”
Griner, 32, who was arrested in Russia in February on drug prices, was seen by an AFP reporter strolling throughout a runway after her airplane landed in San Antonio, Texas.
She was anticipated to be transferred to a close-by army facility for medical checks, US media reported.
Griner was exchanged in Abu Dhabi on Thursday for Viktor Bout, a 55-year-old Russian nationwide who was serving a 25-year sentence in a US jail.
In footage launched by Russian state media, Griner, with out his distinctive dreadlocks, and a relaxed and animated Bout may very well be seen crossing paths on the airport tarmac and heading for the planes that may take them house.
President Joe Biden mentioned Thursday that he had spoken together with her and that she was in “good spirits” after struggling “unnecessary trauma.”
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, WNBA champion and LGBTQ chief, was arrested at a Moscow airport amid heightened tensions over Ukraine.
She was accused of possessing vape cartridges with a small quantity of hashish oil and was sentenced in August to 9 years in jail.
Bout, accused of arming rebels in among the world’s bloodiest conflicts, was arrested in a US sting operation in Thailand in 2008, extradited to the US and sentenced in 2012 to 25 years behind bars.
He landed in Russia on Thursday, state tv mentioned. “Don’t worry, everything is okay, I love you very much,” he instructed his mom Raisa.
Whereas Griner’s household and associates celebrated her launch, one other American held in Russia, former US Marine Paul Whelan, detained since 2018 on espionage prices, was not a part of Thursday’s alternate.
He instructed CNN he was “very disappointed.”
“I don’t understand why I’m still sitting here,” Whelan instructed CNN in a telephone name from a Russian penal colony.
Biden vowed to get Whelan free, saying “we will never give up.”
“Sadly, for completely illegal reasons, Russia is treating Paul’s case differently than Brittney’s,” he mentioned.
Concerning Griner’s launch, Biden mentioned, “This is a day we’ve been working toward for a long time. It took careful and intense negotiations.”
“The Family Is Whole”
Biden introduced Griner’s launch Thursday flanked by her spouse, Cherelle Griner, Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“I’m just standing here, overwhelmed with emotion,” Cherelle Griner mentioned.
“Today my family is whole, but as you are all aware, there are so many other families that are not whole.”
The Griner household thanked President Biden and his administration in a press release, saying they’re “praying for Paul and for the speedy and safe return of all wrongfully imprisoned Americans.”
WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert mentioned there was a “collective wave of joy and relief” within the skilled girls’s league the place Griner has been a star for a decade with the Phoenix Mercury.
Biden thanked the United Arab Emirates for serving to to “facilitate” Griner’s launch, and the United Arab Emirates issued a joint assertion with Saudi Arabia saying it was the results of “mediation efforts” by leaders of the 2 Arab nations.
Nonetheless, White Home press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre mentioned there was “no mediation involved” and “the only countries that negotiated this agreement were the United States and Russia.”
“Save our countryman”
On the time of her arrest, Griner had been taking part in for an expert crew in Russia, as various WNBA gamers do within the offseason.
She pleaded responsible to the costs towards her, however mentioned she had no intention of breaking the regulation or utilizing the banned substance in Russia.
Griner testified that she had permission from an American physician to make use of medical hashish to alleviate ache from her a number of accidents.
Use of medical marijuana isn’t allowed in Russia.
The Russian International Ministry mentioned it had been negotiating with Washington to safe Bout’s launch “for a long time” and that the USA had initially “refused dialogue” on together with him in any alternate.
“Nevertheless, the Russian Federation continued to actively work to save our compatriot,” it mentioned.
The 2005 movie Lord of Conflict starring Nicolas Cage was based mostly partially on Bout’s arms dealing, and he has been the topic of a number of books and TV reveals.
Russia’s ambassador to the USA, Anatoly Antonov, instructed Bout in a video message that he was conscious that the arms vendor had been subjected to “strong physical and moral pressure” whereas in jail, Russian information company TASS reported.
Requested about Bout’s launch, a senior U.S. protection official mentioned “there is a concern that he would go back to doing the same kind of work that he has done in the past.”
Moscow mentioned on Friday that ties with Washington remained in “crisis”.
“It is probably wrong to draw any hypothetical conclusions that this could be a step towards overcoming the crisis we currently have in bilateral relations,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov instructed Izvestia newspaper.
Ties “continue to remain in a sorry state.”