Brittney Griner the US basketballer that was imprisoned in Russia has been released via a prisoner swap for an arms dealer

Brittney Griner the US basketballer that was imprisoned in Russia has been released via a prisoner swap for an arms dealer

BRITTNEY GRINER, the US basketball star, who has been imprisoned in Russia for a number of months has been released in a prisoner swap with Russia and is now in US custody. The news was confirmed by President Joe Biden on Thursday.

Griner, a two-time olympic gold medalist in basketball was arrested on 17 February at a Moscow airport with vape cartridges containing cannabis oil, which is banned in Russia.

She was sentenced on 4 August to nine years on charges of possessing and smuggling drugs after pleading guilty, but insisted she had made an "honest mistake" and had not intended to break the law.

Tweeting from the POTUS account, Biden shared pictures of himself with Griner's wife Cherelle, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a call with the basketballer.

"Moments ago I spoke to Brittney Griner. She is safe. She is on a plane. She is on her way home," said the tweet.

Russia's foreign ministry said it had traded Ms Griner for Russian citizen Viktor Bout.

The exchange took place at Abu Dhabi airport, Russian news agencies reported.

Bout was one of the world's most wanted men during his career as an international weapons dealer, and was dubbed "the Merchant of Death" in a 2007 biography.

Born in Dushanbe, Soviet Tajikistan, in 1967, Bout is reported to be fluent in several languages and to have served in the Soviet army as a military translator, including in Angola.

He has said he attended a Moscow language institute that serves as a training ground for military intelligence officers.

Bout was arrested in 2008 in Thailand after a sting operation by US agents who recorded him offering to sell missiles to people he believed were leftist Colombian guerrillas.

In 2012, he was given a 25-year prison sentence by a US court on multiple charges related to his arms dealing career.

Russia has always proclaimed his innocence, describing his case as a glaring injustice and attempting to secure his release.

Russia's foreign ministry said."On December 8, 2022, the procedure for the exchange of Russian citizen Viktor Bout for U.S. citizen Brittney Griner, who were serving their sentences in correctional institutions of the United States of America and the Russian Federation, respectively, was successfully completed at Abu Dhabi Airport,"

"Washington categorically refused to engage in dialogue on the inclusion of the Russian in the exchange scheme," the foreign ministry added. "Nevertheless, the Russian Federation continued to actively work to rescue our compatriots.

"The Russian citizen has been returned to his homeland."