Basketball superstar Brittney Griner is back in the US after being free from a prison in the Mordovia region, in exchange for the infamous arms dealer and suspected Russian intelligence agent Viktor Bout. But America has failed to secure the freedom of Paul Whelan, who is in a Russian jail for 4 years.
The high-profile prisoner swap flowed close to a year of tense negotiation after she was detained at the Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow with drugs. The Russian Federal Customs Service discovered vape cartridges containing marijuana concentrate hashish oil in her luggage.
The 32-year-old WNBA star’s release has been a top objective for President Biden. Brittney Griner has won two Olympic gold medals and has been a Phoenix Mercury basketball star and Baylor University All-American.
Brittney Griner Being A Black And Gay Complicated Matters
Brittney Griner’s status as a Black gay woman brought multiple dynamics into play in the saga. Added to the legal narrative were gender, racial, and social issues as she remained detained in a country not too friendly to the LGBTQ community.
The decision to release Victor Bout underlined the pressure faced by the Biden administration to get Brittney Griner home. It had become more urgent as the criminal case against her was disposed and she was transferred subsequently to a penal settlement.
The WNBA star who played professionally in Russia had been declared to have been wrongfully detained by the US State Department. The charge was sharply rejected by the Russians.
The swap was confirmed Thursday by the Foreign Ministry of Russia in a press release by news agencies in Russia. The prisoners were exchanged in the United Arab Emirates nation of Abu Dhabi and Bout was flown to Russia.
The basketball star landed at the Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, on Friday. Biden called up Brittney Griner. Officials revealed that she would be given counseling and specialized medical support. Once the swap was confirmed and the exchange excluded Whelan, Biden said that they have will not give up.