Brittney Griner is back in the US after the Biden administration’s controversial prisoner swap

American basketball star Brittney Griner arrived back in the United States early Friday, landing at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.

Griner, who was released from Russian custody in a high-profile prisoner swap on Thursday, landed at around 3am local time.

Then he was transferred to a medical facility.

On Friday, Griner set foot in the United States for the first time since being imprisoned by Russia 10 months ago. His release comes after months of negotiations between Washington and Moscow.

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Griner was released in a prisoner swap with Russia in exchange for arms dealer Victor Booth, known as the “merchant of death.”

“He’s safe, he’s on a plane, he’s going home,” Biden said Thursday.


Cheryl Griner, wife of Olympian and WNBA player Brittney Griner, speaks after U.S. President Joe Biden announced his release from Russian custody at the White House on December 08, 2022 in Washington, DC.
(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The president made the announcement from the White House, accompanied by Griner’s wife, Cheryl, and representatives of the administration.

The deal was finalized after Russia indicated its reluctance to release U.S. citizen Paul Whelan, a Marine and Iraq war veteran who was detained in 2018, according to the White House. Whelan was convicted in 2020.

“This was not a choice for us to bring home which American. It was a choice between bringing home one American or not,” White House press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre said Thursday.

The exchange caused some controversy because Bout had previously been accused of selling weapons used to kill Americans.

“This was a man who conspired to sell AK-47s and knew they were going to be used to kill Americans — American narcotics. Law enforcement officials may not be happy about his release. What is the president telling them and others? It’s bad overall. Was it a contract?” White House Correspondent Jean-Pierre asked.

Jean-Pierre responded: “The president felt a moral obligation to bring Britney home. There was an opportunity, and it was Britney or no one, and we’re not going to apologize for that.”

Bout had already returned to Russia when Russian television showed him disembarking from a plane on a snow-covered tarmac in Moscow.

His mother and wife were there to welcome him.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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