President Biden confirmed Thursday morning that WNBA star Brittney Griner is going home after being released from a Russian prison, but he did not discuss what Russia would get in return.
“After months of wrongful detention in Russia, held in unbearable conditions, Brittney will soon be back in the arms of her loved ones, who should have been there all along,” Biden said.
Biden said his administration had been working “for a long time” to free Griner. According to the Associated Press, Griner was handed over in exchange for the release of arms dealer Victor Booth, who was once known as the “Dealer of Death” according to US authorities.
Biden did not mention Booth in his speech Thursday morning, and he declined to answer a reporter’s question about what Russia received in exchange for Griner’s release.
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The president thanked the United Arab Emirates for helping to implement the agreements, noting that Griner landed in the UAE after leaving Russia.
The president praised the two-time Olympic gold medalist for her “bravery” and “incredible dignity” in the face of “mistreatment” that included “show court in Russia.”
“He represents the best of America,” he said.
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Biden said he has not forgotten former US Marine Paul Whelan, who remains in a Russian prison. Whelan has been detained by his family and the United States since December 2018 on espionage charges.
“It wasn’t a choice about which American to take home,” Biden said, adding that Russia was treating Whelan differently than Griner for “absolutely illegitimate reasons.”
“We will never give up,” Biden said.
Whelan’s brother David confirmed that US authorities had informed his family that Paul would not be coming home.
“There is no greater achievement than an illegal prisoner being released and going home,” said David Whelan. “Rather than bring Ms. Griner home and wait for a deal that won’t happen, the Biden administration made the right decision to pursue a possible deal.”
Fox News’ Rich Edson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.