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Britney Griner was released from Russia in a one-for-one prisoner exchange with arms dealer Viktor Bout

Britney GrinerThe WNBA star, who spent months in a Russian prison on drug charges, was released Thursday in a 1-1 International arms dealer prisoner exchange Victor BoutCBS News first learned about the swap early Thursday morning from US officials. His one-to-one exchange deal negotiated with Moscow in recent weeks President Biden Last week, according to a source familiar with the deal. The swap took place in the United Arab Emirates on Thursday.

Five former US officials told CBS News of the deal was reached by the time last Thursday.

A White House official said the president spoke to Brittney Griner by phone. . In accordance with standard procedure for released US prisoners, Griner was expected to undergo a medical evaluation immediately.

Biden tweeted, “She’s safe. She’s on the plane. On her way home.” Among them was a photo of him with Sherrell Griner in the Oval Office.

Shortly after Griner’s release, Mr Biden said at the White House that he was looking forward to returning home, saying, “I’m happy to say Britney is doing well.” The president dismissed her “show trial in Russia” that sent her to her prison, saying “she didn’t ask for special treatment.”

To secure Griner’s release, the president ordered Bout to be released and returned to Russia. Biden signed a commuting order that shortened Bout’s 25-year federal sentence.

In particular, Griner-for-Bout exchanges leave retired U.S. Marine Corps Paul Whelan Imprisoned in Russia. Whelan has been detained in Russia for nearly four years.he convicted on espionage charges What the United States called false.

“We haven’t forgotten Paul Whelan,” Biden said Thursday, adding that he would “never give up” on securing his release.

Griner was detained at a Russian airport in February and later pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the discovery of cannabis-derived oil cartridges in his luggage.

After five months of diplomatic stalemate and various changes to possible swap arrangements (last summer, the previously reported sending of two prisoners back to Russia for two Americans). (including a U.S. offer that didn’t exist), sources said, a one-for-one exchange in the past two weeks.

Whelan, who once worked as a corporate security contractor, was in Moscow for a friend’s wedding when he was detained at a hotel in December 2018. Russian authorities then sentenced him to 16 years in prison for espionage. This month marks the fourth anniversary of Whelan’s detention in Russia.

Most recently incarcerated at a federal prison in Marion, Illinois, Bout was arrested by Thailand’s Drug Enforcement Administration in 2008 after he went undercover. He was convicted of conspiring to murder an American, and ten years ago he began a 25-year prison sentence. .

Griner’s arrest coincided with the start of February. Russia’s Unilateral Invasion of Ukraine, all US dealings with the Kremlin are complicated by that dispute. The U.S. says both Griner and Whelan were “wrongfully detained,” and officials suspect Russia is using U.S. prisoners as leverage.

Griner’s return to Bout marks the second prisoner exchange with Russia for the Biden administration. In April, the U.S. convicted Russian smuggler Konstantin Yaroshenko of conspiring to import cocaine. trevor reedThe former US Marine was imprisoned in Russia for nearly three years.

CBS News learned last Thursday that a match exchange with Greiner was imminent, but agreed to request that the White House keep the coverage on hold.

Biden administration officials have warned that announcing the details of the swap in advance would almost certainly pull Russia out of the deal, jeopardizing Mr. Griner’s well-being.

Nancy Cordes, Ed O’Keefe, Sara Cook, Camilla Schick, Tucker Reals, and Haley Ott contributed to the report.

https://www.cbsnews.com/live-updates/brittney-griner-release-russia-prisoner-swap-viktor-bout/ Britney Griner was released from Russia in a one-for-one prisoner exchange with arms dealer Viktor Bout

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