Olympian and WNBA champion Brittney Griner, who was arrested and sentenced to nine-years of hard labor in a Russian penal camp for bringing cannabis vape cartridges into the country, has been exchanged with Russian national and notorious arms dealer Victor Bout as the result of a deal between the United States and Russia in order to secure Griner’s freedom.
Griner, who had spent 10 months in Russia already, was confirmed by Fox News late last night to have been released and turned over into American custody so that she could be returned home.
President Joe Biden announced the news over by posting a tweet with photos of him and Vice President Kamala Harris in the company of Griner’s partner, Cherelle Griner.
“Moments ago I spoke to Brittney Griner,” Biden posted. “She is safe. She is on a plane. She is on her way home.”
Biden would go on to also hold a White House press conference where he continued to celebrate the news as a diplomatic victory, however, not once during this speech did he at all mention that the US government handed over a dangerous international criminal as part of the deal.
Biden said during the speech that “After months of being unjustly detained in Russia, held under intolerable circumstances, Brittney will soon be back in the arms of her loved ones and she should have been there all along.”
“I am grateful to the State Department team and to our colleagues across the government who worked tirelessly to secure her release,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken who also released a statement to coincide with the news.
Bout, who has been called the “Merchant of Death” by the media, was rumored months ago to have been an essential bargaining chip in order to secure Griner’s release. The Russian was being held in federal prison in the middle of a 25-year sentence at the time of his release. He had been convicted on the grounds of conspiracy to kill American citizens as the result of dealings with terrorist organizations in Columbia.
Bout began his journey to becoming on of the most infamous arms dealers in recent history when after the fall of the Soviet Union. He built his criminal empire by acquiring Russian aircraft and selling those and other Soviet armaments to the highest bidder. His exploits were also the inspiration for the popular Nicolas Cage film, “Lord of War.”
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