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You are here News International WNBA star Griner freed in swap for Russian arms dealer Bout

WNBA star Griner freed in swap for Russian arms dealer Bout

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Britney Griner releasedRussia freed WNBA star Brittney Griner on Thursday in a high-profile prisoner exchange, as the U.S. released notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout but failed to win freedom for another American, Paul Whelan, who has been jailed for nearly four years.

The deal, the second in eight months amid tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, secured the release of the most prominent American detained abroad and achieved a top policy goal for President Joe Biden. But it carried what U.S. officials described as a heavy price.

“She’s safe, she’s on a plane, she’s on her way home,” Biden said from the White House, where he was accompanied by Griner’s wife, Cherelle, and administration officials.

Biden’s authorization to release Bout, the Russian felon once nicknamed “the Merchant of Death,” underscored the heightened urgency that his administration faced to get Griner home, particularly after the recent resolution of her criminal case on drug charges and subsequent transfer to a penal colony. Griner, who also played pro basketball in Russia, was arrested at an airport there last February for bringing less than a gram of cannabis oil in vape cartridges into the country.

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