‘She’s on the ground’: Basketball star Brittney Griner back in US after release from Russian jail

Brittney Griner

United States president Joe Biden has confirmed queer basketball star Brittney Griner is back in the United States after being released from Russia in a prisoner swap.

Biden shared a video on Twitter of the moment he was able to tell’s Griner’s wife, Cherelle, the good news. Griner’s release was made in exchange for Russian criminal Viktor Bout, who was being held in the United States.

“She’s on the ground,” he says in the Oval Office at the White House, holding Cherelle as she grins.

She gives the president a hug, before the video cuts to them sitting down and Cherelle quipping “It’s just such a good day.

“Oh my god,” she says, as Vice President Kamala Harris and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken stand nearby.

On Thursday (8 December) Biden confirmed he had spoken with Griner, and that she was “safe”, “on a plane”, and “on her way home”.

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Speaking to media at the White House, Biden said her release was a day officials had “worked toward for a long time”.

“It took painstaking and intense negotiations,” the president added.

He said the 32-year-old was in “good spirits” and “relieved to finally be heading home”.

Cherelle told media “her family was whole” now, adding: “Today is just a happy day for me and my family.”

Charlie said she and Brittney would remain committed to bringing home all Americans imprisoned in Russia.

Brittney was sentenced in August to nine years in a Russian penal colony after pleading guilty to drug charges. She was reportedly found at an airport with vape cartridges containing cannabis oil. 

At her sentencing, Brittney told the court she had made “an honest mistake” and she “never meant to break any laws”. 

There had long been a public push for authorities to get Brittney released, something Biden said they had been working on since “day one”.

Griner was moved from a detention centre to the IK-2 penal colony in Yavas, Mordovia – some 480 kilometres southeast of Moscow – in early November.

Experts commented on the tough conditions Brittney was expected to face – partly because she is Black, American and queer.

Her release has been widely celebrated.

GLAAD president and chief executive Sarah Kate Ellis said it was “a relief”.

“We can’t wait to welcome Brittney home.”

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