Brittney Griner lands back in US after 10-month ordeal in Russian prison camp

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Basketball star Brittney Griner has landed in the United States after 10 months in Russian detention following a prisoner swap involving arms dealer Viktor Bout, who flew home hours earlier to embrace his family on the airport tarmac in Moscow.

“They say she’s in very good spirits, appears to be in good health,” White House spokesman John Kirby told MSNBC, citing US officials on the ground in San Antonio, Texas, where she arrived just before dawn on Friday.

Securing Thursday’s swap, after months of negotiations, was a rare instance of US-Russian co-operation after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, although the Kremlin was quick to say it did not show improving relations.

Russia’s state media trumpeted the swap as a win for Moscow after the release of a man who the US Department of Justice has described as one of the world’s most prolific arms dealers — a “merchant of death” who sold weapons across the globe to terrorists and America’s enemies for decades. Bout always denied the charges.

US President Joe Biden, in announcing her release on Thursday, said the swap ended what he described as months of “hell” for Griner, 32, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and star of the Women’s National Basketball Association’s Phoenix Mercury.

“So happy to have Brittney back on US soil. Welcome home BG!,” US special presidential envoy Roger Carstens, the chief US hostage co-ordinator, said in a post on Twitter.

‘She was wronfully detained’

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert, in a CNN interview, credited US negotiators, adding: “Brittney really deserves to be home. She was wrongfully detained and we’re happy that she’s reuniting with her family today.”

Griner, who flew into San Antonio before dawn on Friday, was arrested on February 17 at a Moscow airport after vape cartridges containing cannabis oil, which is banned in Russia, were found in her luggage.

As Griner flew back home, Bout arrived in Moscow and said it was difficult to describe his feelings He rejected the idea that Russia got the best of the exchange or that it had made Biden look “weak”.

“I wouldn’t draw such a conclusion … I’m pretty sure that neither our leadership, nor any other, thinks in such notions – whether you are weak or not,” he said.

Biden personally tracked the negotiations closely but it was only in recent weeks that he made the “very painful” decision to provide clemency to Bout to get the swap done, a senior US official said.

Griner went at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, for a medical evaluation, Kirby told MSNBC.

Griner, who had been detained in Russia since a week before the invasion of Ukraine, travelled from a Russian penal colony to Moscow, then to Abu Dhabi airport in the United Arab Emirates where the exchange took place.

“Bilateral relations continue to remain in a sorry state,” TASS news agency quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying on Friday.

-AAP

The post Brittney Griner lands back in US after 10-month ordeal in Russian prison camp appeared first on The New Daily.

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