Breaking: Brittney Griner released by Russia in 1-for-1 prisoner swap for arms dealer Viktor Bout
Brittney Griner, the WNBA star who was held for months in Russian prisons on drug charges, was released Thursday in a one-for-one prisoner swap for international arms dealer Viktor Bout, CBS News learned early Thursday from a U.S. official. The one-for-one exchange agreement negotiated with Moscow in recent weeks was given final approval by President Biden within just the last week, according to sources familiar with the deal. The swap, first reported by CBS News, 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 the president spoke to Brittney Griner by phone. The call happened in the Oval Office, where the president was joined by Cherelle Griner, Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Per standard procedure for freed U.S. prisoners, Griner was expected to quickly undergo a medical evaluation.
"She is safe. She is on a plane. She is on her way home," Mr. Biden said in a tweet, which included a couple photos of himself in the Oval Office with Cherelle Griner.
Speaking shortly after Griner was released, Mr. Biden said at the White House he was "glad to be able to say Brittney is in good spirits," and that she was looking forward to getting home. The president dismissed the "show trial in Russia" that landed her in prison, and said "she didn't ask for special treatment."
To secure Griner's release, the president ordered Bout to be freed and returned to Russia. Mr. Biden signed the commutation order cutting short Bout's 25-year federal prison sentence.
Notably, the Griner-for-Bout exchange leaves retired U.S. Marine Paul Whelan imprisoned in Russia. Whelan has been in Russian custody for nearly four years. He was convicted on espionage charges that the U.S. has called false.
"We've not forgotten about Paul Whelan," Mr. Biden said Thursday, adding "we will never give up" on securing his release.
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