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Brittney Griner freed from Russia after 294 days in captivity

The WNBA star's release was part of a prisoner swap negotiated by U.S. and Russian officials.


WNBA star Brittney Griner has been freed from Russian imprisonment after U.S. officials successfully negotiated her release. For Griner, it brings an end to a 294-day period of captivity that began with her arrest in February.

Senior Biden administration officials said Griner’s release came as a result of a prisoner swap, in which the U.S. agreed to free Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who was 11 years into a 25-year sentence, NBC News reported.

President Joe Biden signed off on the terms of the trade, which was conducted in the United Arab Emirates. Notably, the trade did not include Paul Whelan, another American imprisoned in Russia. He's serving a 16-year sentence on spying charges he and the U.S. deny.

Griner was detained at a Moscow airport Feb. 17 after Russian officials said they found two vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage. She was convicted on a charge of attempting to smuggle drugs into Russia and was sentenced Aug. 4 to nine years in prison.

Back when Griner’s detainment was first reported, I wrote about how she was in unique danger as a Black, queer woman being held in Russia, a place known for racism, anti-LGBTQ bigotry and cruel prison conditions.

In November, Griner was transferred to a Russian penal colony known for subjecting detainees to extremely harsh treatment. Today, however, brings a reprieve. For Griner. For her family — including her wife, Cherelle Griner, who tirelessly pushed for her release and can be seen in Biden's tweet below. And for Griner's supporters, who insisted the media not forget her name.

Brittney is coming home.