Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner has been released from a Russian penal colony and is in United States custody after a prisoner exchange for arms dealer Viktor Bout, President Biden confirmed Thursday morning.
CBS News was first to report the news.
In a news conference at the White House, Biden said the exchange had been in the works for the past two weeks, and that he had given the final go-ahead. He said the exchange took place in the United Arab Emirates, and that he had spoken with Griner on the phone. Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, was at the White House on Thursday.
Biden said the “past few months have been hell for Brittney” but that she is in good spirits.
“We never forgot about Brittney,” Biden said. “I’m glad to be able to say Brittney is in good spirits. She’s relieved to finally be heading home, and the fact remains that she’s lost months of her life, experienced a needless trauma. She deserves space, privacy and time with her loved ones to recover and heal from her time being wrongfully detained.
“She wrote to me back in July. She didn’t ask for special treatment, even though we’d been working on her release from day one. She requested, a simple quote, ‘Please don’t forget about me and the other American detainees,’ ” Biden added.
Biden said the United States is still working to bring home Paul Whelan, who has been jailed in Russia since 2018 on charges of espionage.
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