Brittney Griner released in prisoner exchange with Russia

Eight-time Olympic champion returns to her home, wife, family, and supporters


Brittney after arriving in the U.S. after her detainment in Russia

by Isabel Andjell, Staff Writer

On February 17th, Brittney Griner, a WNBA and Olympic champion, flew to Russia to complete an overseas season. There, she was arrested by Russian officials at Sheremetyevo Airport on drug possession charges. There was no public announcement of her arrest until March 5th, when the New York Times first announced that Griner was in Russian custody. A month after her arrest, Russian media reported that Griner would be detained until May 19 before her case was resolved.

Griner’s trial began on July 1st and was adjourned until July 7th, when she pled guilty to drug possession but said that she never intended to break the law. About one month later, Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison in addition to a fine of 1 million rubles (about $16,700). She was moved to a penal colony in Mordovia in early November. On the 8th of December, she was freed in an exchange for Russian convicted arms dealer, Viktor Bout.

While this was a huge relief for Griner’s wife, the WNBA, and all her supporters, this prisoner exchange sparked a lot of controversy.

“Merchant of death, Viktor Bout, arrives in New York in 2010 to face terrorism charges

John Bolton, the former White House national security advisor, said, “Terrorists and rogue states all around the world will take note of this and it endangers other Americans in the future.”

Former Russian MP, Vladimir Osechkin, said he believed Russia wanted Bout back to avoid the provision of evidence of rogue Russian intelligence helping terrorist organizations.

Meanwhile, Brittney Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, spoke at the Oval Office. She said she was, “overwhelmed with emotions,” while thanking the Biden administration and all those who aided in the freeing of her wife.