Brittney Griner Launched from Russian Jail in Change for Arms Vendor


WNBA star Brittney Griner, after being locked up for months in Russia for a small quantity of hashish, was launched Thursday in a one-for-one prisoner swap for worldwide arms seller Viktor Bout.

Griner, who performs for the Phoenix Mercury, was arrested at a Russian airport on February 17 and later pleaded responsible to costs of possession of hashish cartridges in her baggage, one week earlier than Russia invaded Ukraine. 

She finally confronted 9 years in jail for 0.7 grams of weed: “[Ms. Griner] purchased two cartridges for private use, which contained 0.252 grams and 0.45 grams of hash oil, totaling 0.702 grams,” Russian information company TASS stated. Griner was transferred to a Russian penal colony final month.

Griner’s case is a flashpoint for debate—given the hundreds of different Individuals in jail within the U.S. and past on cannabis-related costs. 5 months of diplomacy and deceitful messages from Russian officers lastly got here to an finish.

“She’s secure, she’s on a airplane, she’s on her means dwelling,” Biden said on the White Home, alongside Griner’s spouse, Cherelle, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The Russian International Ministry mentioned in an announcement launched by Russian information companies that the swap befell in Abu-Dhabi and that Bout has been flown dwelling. Final week a prime Russian official mentioned {that a} deal was underway, as did Biden.

Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy overseas minister, mentioned on November 18 that there was new exercise surrounding a possible prisoner swap, however people remained generally skeptical. Amid the unprovoked invasion within the Ukraine, tensions stay excessive.

The result, nonetheless, feels bittersweet for individuals with relations locked up on hashish associated costs.

Griner Launch Comes at a Value

Griner’s launch comes at a worth: With the intention to safe Griner’s launch, Biden ordered Bout, generally known as the “Service provider of Dying,” to be freed and returned to Russia as a stipulation. Biden signed a commutation order releasing Bout from his 25-year federal jail sentence.

Bout is a former Soviet Military lieutenant colonel who was described by the U.S. Division of Justice as one of many world’s most prolific arms sellers. Bout’s fingerprint may be seen within the provide of missiles and arms in violent wars in Afghanistan, Colombia, the Congo, and the overthrow of the Gaddafi authorities in Libya in 2011.

Frankly, the truth that 0.7 grams of weed is taken into account equal is outrageous.

CBS Information stories that in accordance with the previous Moscow Ambassador John Sullivan, Russian officials fixated on freeing Bout, or no deal was in order.

Bout was arrested by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Company (DEA) in Thailand following a sting operation carried out by American brokers in 2008. He was ultimately convicted of conspiring to kill Individuals and was sentenced to 25 years in jail about 10 years in the past. 

Bout was most just lately incarcerated at a federal jail in Marion, Illinois earlier than the discharge.

Free Different Prisoners

As hundreds of different hashish prisoners within the U.S. and past await their very own releases, some celebrities identified the hypocrisy. 

U.S. officers tried for a number of months to convey dwelling each Griner and Paul Whelan, a Michigan man additionally locked up in Russia since December 2018 on “espionage costs” that his household and the U.S. authorities each deny.

“We’ve not forgotten about Paul Whelan,” Biden said. “We are going to preserve negotiating in good religion for Paul’s launch.”

But it surely’s vital to remember that Whelan’s family helps the discharge, regardless of nonetheless ready for Paul’s launch. “The Biden Administration made the best choice to convey Ms. Griner dwelling, and to make the deal that was attainable, slightly than ready for one which wasn’t going to occur,” Paul’s brother David mentioned in an announcement.

Final April, the U.S. traded Russian cocaine smuggler Konstantin Yaroshenko for American former prisoner Trevor Reed. 

  • Benjamin M. Adams

    Benjamin M. Adams is Workers Author at Excessive Instances, and has written for Vice, Forbes, HuffPost, The Advocate, Tradition, and plenty of different publications. He holds a Bachelor of Communication from Southern New Hampshire College.

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