Brittney Griner Released in Prisoner Swap with Russia

December 8, 2022
A photo taken from inside an airplane looking out at the wing

She’s safe, she’s on a plane, she’s on her way home.

President Joe Biden on the release of WNBA player Brittney Griner. She was released by Russia, reportedly in a prisoner swap with the United States.

Background: Brittney Griner, one of the top U.S. women's basketball players who played for Russia during the off season, was detained in Russia for attempting to illegally smuggle drugs into the country in February (a few days before Russia invaded Ukraine). She was sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony, and had been determined as "wrongfully detained" by the U.S. (Read more about Brittney Griner here.)

Why It Matters: Griner is on a plane home, Pres. Biden said from the White House on Thursday morning. The president announced the release but did not confirm the prisoner swap. Reportedly, the U.S. released Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms dealer who was serving a 25-year sentence in the U.S. for attempting to sell weapons "that U.S. officials said were to be used against Americans" (The Associated Press). *We will wait for official confirmation from the U.S. government.*

  • On Paul Whelan, another wrongfully detained American serving a 16-year sentence in Russia, Pres. Biden said: "Sadly, for totally illegitimate reasons, Russia is treating Paul's case differently than Brittney's. And while we have not yet succeeded in securing Paul's release, we are not giving up. We will never give up."

President Biden and Brittney Griner's Wife Deliver Remarks from the White House

WNBA star Griner freed in swap for Russian arms dealer Bout (The Associated Press)

Brittney Griner released in swap for arms dealer Viktor Bout (The Washington Post)

by Jenna Lee,