Brittney Griner poses with fans in first public appearance since release from Russia penal colony

Brittney Griner smiles while wears a red, white and blue Team USA Olympic basketball jersey

Brittney Griner made her first public appearance just weeks after returning home to the US following her release from a Russian penal colony. 

The WNBA star, who was released from a Russian penal colony on 8 December, took part in a march in tribute to Martin Luther King Jr on Monday (16 January) in Phoenix, Arizona alongside her wife, Cherelle Griner. 

Griner greeted well-wishers, who seemed excited to see the Phoenix Mercury star, and she posed for photos with some people at the event. She was also spotted riding on a golf cart, looking relaxed to be at the event, with her arm affectionately around her wife. 

Griner said she was happy to be back home, local outlet 12News

The two-time Olympic gold medallist was arrested in a Moscow airport in February, days before Russia invaded Ukraine. Russian officials said they found cannabis oil in her luggage. 

Griner was later convicted on drugs charges and was sentenced to nine years in prison

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Her case gained international attention. Several high-profile people, including former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and countless sports stars, called on the Biden administration to secure her release. 

Cherelle tirelessly campaigned for Brittney Griner’s return home, and she even met with president Joe Biden to discuss the efforts to bring her wife home

In December, the Kremlin traded Griner for convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout, known as the “Merchant of Death”.  

The deal did not include Paul Whelan, another American who was sentenced to 16 years on espionage charges. Brittney and Cherelle Griner have both promised to advocate for Whelan’s release.

“It feels so good to be home!” Griner wrote in an Instagram post after her return to the US. 

“The last 10 months have been a battle at every turn. I dug deep to keep my faith and it was the love from so many of you that helped keep me going. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone for your help.”

Griner indicated she plans to return to the basketball court this year to play for the Phoenix Mercury in the team’s upcoming season.

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