Skip to main content

American Basketball Star, Brittney Griner In US After Release From Russian Custody In Exchange For International Arms Dealer, Bout

December 9, 2022

Griner arrived in the US early Friday morning, touching down at Kelly Field in San Antonio.

Brittney Griner, the American basketball star held for months in Russian prisons on drug charges, has safely returned to the US after being released from custody in a prisoner exchange.

Griner arrived in the US early Friday morning, touching down at Kelly Field in San Antonio.

She is expected to immediately undergo a medical evaluation at a treatment facility, in accordance with standard procedure for freed U.S. prisoners.

A viral video shows Griner and one of the world’s most prolific arms dealer, Victor Bout passing by each other as the exchange was done.

Griner was freed on Thursday in a one-for-one prisoner swap for an international arms dealer, Bout, according to a U.S. official.


The one-for-one exchange agreement negotiated with Moscow in recent weeks was given final approval by President Joe Biden within just the last week, according to sources familiar with the deal, CBS News reports. The swap took place on Thursday in the United Arab Emirates.


Five former U.S. officials told CBS News the agreement had been reached as of last Thursday.


A White House official said President Biden was in the Oval Office Thursday morning on the phone, speaking with Griner and her wife, and that Vice President Kamala Harris was also in the room.


The 32-year-old Griner was facing nine years in a Russian penal colony, where she was expected to toil in sweatshop conditions while sewing for 12 hours or more per day.


The deal, the second of such exchange in eight months with Russia, procured the release of the most prominent American detained abroad, Daily Mail reports. Griner is a two-time Olympic gold medalist whose monthslong imprisonment on drug charges brought unprecedented attention to the population of wrongful detainees.

Russian and US officials had conveyed cautious optimism in recent weeks after months of strained negotiations, with Biden saying in November that he was hopeful that Russia would engage in a deal now that the midterm elections were completed. A top Russian official said last week that a deal was possible before the end of 2022.


Even so, the fact that the deal was a one-for-one swap was a surprise given that U.S. officials had for months expressed their determination to bring home both Griner and Paul Whelan, a Michigan corporate security executive jailed in Russia since December 2018 on espionage charges that his family and the U.S. government have described as baseless.

In releasing Bout, the U.S. freed a former Soviet Army lieutenant colonel whom the Justice Department once described as one of the world's most prolific arms dealers. Bout, whose exploits inspired a Hollywood movie, was serving a 25-year sentence on charges that he conspired to sell tens of millions of dollars in weapons that U.S officials said were to be used against Americans.