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Brittney Griner swapped for Russian arms dealer


Brittney Griner waits in a Russian prison. Associated Press/Photo by Evgenia Novozhenina, pool, file

Brittney Griner swapped for Russian arms dealer

Russia on Thursday released WNBA star player Brittney Griner from custody in a high-profile prisoner exchange. Griner was arrested in February in Moscow on drug possession charges after police found cannabis oil in her luggage. In August, a Russian court sentenced her to nine years in prison. After months of negotiations, U.S. officials released notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout to Russian authorities in exchange for Griner, President Joe Biden said Thursday. Bout was serving a 25-year prison sentence after being convicted in 2011 of conspiring to sell weapons to a terrorist organization, among other charges.

What does this mean for other Americans detained in Russia? Prior to Griner’s release, U.S. officials had been working to secure freedom for her and fellow American Paul Whelan, who was detained in December 2018 while traveling in Russia. Whelan was sentenced in 2020 to 16 years in prison on espionage-related charges that both his family and the U.S. government deny. In July, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that a proposal to release both Griner and Whelan was in the works, but on Thursday, Biden said that the Russian government was determined to keep their cases separate and would not free Whelan at this time.

Dig deeper: Read Todd Vician’s report in WORLD Magazine’s international section about Russia’s nuclear capabilities.


Lauren Canterberry

Lauren Canterberry is a reporter for WORLD. She graduated from the World Journalism Institute and the University of Georgia with a degree in journalism, both in 2017. She worked as a local reporter in Texas and now lives in Georgia with her husband.

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