SAN ANTONIO (AP) — A plane believed to be carrying Britney Greener landed in the U.S. early Friday, a day after the basketball star was detained in Russia and became the most high-profile foreign arrival. Americans have been in prison for nearly 10 months.
Greiner was exchanged by notorious arms dealer Victor Bout. A plane believed to be carrying her landed at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.
The deal achieved President Joe Biden’s primary goal — but failed to win freedom for another American, Paul Whelan, who was jailed for nearly four years.
Biden’s release of Bout, a Russian felon once nicknamed “The Merchant of Death,” underscores the urgency for his administration to send Greener home, especially after her criminal case on drug charges was recently resolved and her subsequent After handing over the penal colonies.
Greiner, who also played professional basketball in Russia, was arrested at an airport in Russia after Russian authorities said she was carrying vaping cans filled with marijuana oil. Ahead of her conviction, the U.S. State Department announced that Greener had been “wrongly detained” – a charge Russia has firmly rejected.
Griner is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, Baylor University All-American and Phoenix Mercury professional basketball star. Her identity as an openly gay black woman imprisoned in a country where authorities have been hostile to the LBGTQ community has injected race, gender, and social dynamics into her legal saga and brought unprecedented attention to the community of illegal detainees .
The Russian foreign ministry confirmed the exchange, saying in a statement carried by Russian news agencies that the exchange took place in Abu Dhabi and that Bout had flown home.
Biden spoke with Greener on the phone. She will receive specialized medical care and counseling, U.S. officials said.
In releasing Bout, the United States released a former Soviet lieutenant colonel who the Justice Department has described as one of the world’s most prolific arms dealers. He was arrested in Thailand in 2008 and extradited to the United States in 2010.
Bout is serving a 25-year sentence for conspiring to sell tens of millions of dollars worth of weapons that U.S. officials say will be used against Americans.
After Griner was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport in February, she pleaded guilty in July but still faces trial because pleading guilty in Russia’s judicial system does not automatically close the case.
She admitted in court she was in possession of the jars containing the oil but said she had no criminal intent but that she had accidentally packaged them. Her defense team produced written statements saying she was prescribed cannabis to treat pain.