WNBA star Brittney Griner freed from Russia in prisoner swap with arms dealer (PHOTOS)
Russia has freed WNBA star Brittney Griner in exchange for notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
US President Joe Biden shared the news on Twitter Thursday morning.
“Moments ago I spoke to Brittney Griner,” he tweeted. “She is safe. She is on a plane. She is on her way home.”
Moments ago I spoke to Brittney Griner.
She is safe.
She is on a plane.
She is on her way home. pic.twitter.com/FmHgfzrcDT
— President Biden (@POTUS) December 8, 2022
The exchange came at the cost of leaving behind Paul Whelan, a Canadian-born US marine who has been in Russian prison for nearly four years, reported The Associated Press.
This comes four months after Griner was sentenced to nine years in Russian prison on drug charges.
On August 4, Russian judge Anna Sotnikova told a court in Khimki, a town just outside of Moscow, that the court found Griner guilty of smuggling and possessing “a significant amount of narcotics,” reported Al Jazeera.
The Phoenix Mercury player was also fined one million rubles, which is about CND$20,900.
The two-time Olympic gold medallist was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on February 17 for entering the country with less than one gram of cannabis oil in her luggage.
Recreational and medicinal cannabis is illegal in Russia.
The reactions to the prisoner swap have been split online.
Many were happy to see Griner freed from the Russian prison.
“Glad Brittney Griner will spend the holidays with her wife and family,” tweeted one person. “Still outrageous what Russian govt put her through using her as a political pawn.”
Glad Brittney Griner will spend the holidays with her wife and family. Still outrageous what Russian govt put her through using her as a political pawn. Also unjust she had to work abroad in the first place to compensate for shitty wages women pro ball players get compared to men https://t.co/t4Az1OrIeW
— Uju Anya (@UjuAnya) December 8, 2022
Even tennis legend Billie Jean King chimed in.
Brittney Griner is free!
After 294 days in Russian captivity, @POTUS negotiated a “one-for-one” prisoner swap.
Thank you to President Biden, and to all those who worked so hard to secure her freedom.
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) December 8, 2022
Brittney Griner Is Free And Coming Home.
Amazing news to start this day. pic.twitter.com/AQ1Ub6gDQY
— Christopher Webb🇺🇸VOTE (@cwebbonline) December 8, 2022
Many right-wing Twitter users expressed animosity towards Griner and disappointment that Whelan didn’t secure the same freedom.
Dear Brittney Griner,
I hope you now appreciate the country that traded you for a terrorist and chose you over a marine.
— Jake Crain (@JakeCrain_) December 8, 2022
Brittney Griner has shown us one thing:
An America hating, useless basketball player is far more important to the Biden administration than a retired marine.
— Tiffany ✨ (@tiffanyandsadie) December 8, 2022
But one Twitter user pointed out how this take minimizes the weight of Griner’s release, and retweeted a quote from the Whelan family, which supports Biden’s decision to free the basketball player.
For folks who haven’t spared a single thought about Paul Whelan, except for at this very moment to try to minimize the release of Brittney Griner, here’s what *his own family* thinks of her release. https://t.co/LLnVa8TNKT
— nick wright (@getnickwright) December 8, 2022
This news also comes amid the increased tensions between the US and Russia over the war in Ukraine.