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#pounditSaturday, January 28, 2023

Brittney Griner released in prisoner swap for Russian arms dealer

Brittney Griner smiles

Mar 12, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner in attendance of the Phoenix Suns game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Brittney Griner is headed back to the United States for the first time in nearly 10 months.

The United States on Thursday agreed to a deal with Russia to release convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for Griner. U.S. officials confirmed the news to multiple media outlets.

Bout had been held in an American prison for more than a decade. He is considered one of the most dangerous arms dealers in the world and is known to many as the “Merchant of Death.” Bout was arrested in March 2008 in a U.S. sting operation in Thailand. He was extradited to the U.S. and later convicted of conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens and officials, providing aid to a terrorist organization and delivery of anti-aircraft missiles.

Bout was sentenced to 25 years in prison. He was held at the United States Penitentiary, Marion in Illinois from June 2012 until President Joe Biden agreed to release him on Thursday in exchange for Griner.

The U.S. and Russia held talks for months centered on Griner’s release. In July, U.S. officials said they made a “substantial offer” to Russia to return Griner and retired U.S. Marine Paul Whelan in a proposed prisoner swap. Whelan, who has been in Russian custody for nearly four years on espionage charges, was not part of the one-for-one swap involving Griner and Bout.

Biden said Thursday that the White House has “not forgotten about Paul Whelan” and “will never give up” on securing his release, according to CBS News.

Griner was arrested at an airport in Moscow on Feb. 17 for carrying hash oil cartridges, which are illegal in Russia. The WNBA star pleaded guilty to all charges and was convicted in August.

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