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Brittney Griner live updates: WNBA star reunites with wife

ABC News 12/10/2022

The U.S. has swapped WNBA star Brittney Griner for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, according to a senior U.S. official.

The basketball star was taken into custody at a Moscow area airport in February in possession of vaping cartridges containing hashish oil, an illegal substance in Russia.

MORE: Timeline of Brittney Griner's detention in Russia

Griner pleaded guilty in July and was sentenced to nine years in prison on Aug. 7. She appealed the sentence, but was quickly rejected in October.

 

Latest Developments

Dec 9, 1:53 PM

Brittney Griner has reunited with her wife

Brittney Griner and her wife, Cherelle Griner, have now seen each other in person, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre confirmed at Friday’s press briefing.

“She has been reunited with her wife, Cherelle. U.S officials who met her on the ground said she was in very good spirits, appears to be in good health," Jean-Pierre said. “She was immediately taken to Brooke Army Medical Center [in San Antonio] where she is being offered a range of support options.”

A sign reading 'We are BG #42' hangs on the facade of the Footprint Center where WNBA star Brittney Griner plays for the Phoenix Mercury in Phoenix, Ariz., Dec. 8, 2022. © Rebecca Noble/AFP via Getty Images A sign reading 'We are BG #42' hangs on the facade of the Footprint Center where WNBA star Brittney Griner plays for the Phoenix Mercury in Phoenix, Ariz., Dec. 8, 2022.

Jean-Pierre did not give a timeline on when Griner might return home to Arizona.

"Every individual is different and those decisions are up to them and their families,” she said. “Typically upon arrival, people are offered a wide range of additional support, including full medical checkup, a mental health checkup.”

-ABC News’ Sarah Kolinovsky

 
Dec 9, 1:17 PM

Viktor Bout gives 1st interview since release

Convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who was traded for Brittney Griner and is now home in Russia, told Russian state-owned media outlet RT, “thank God” the exchange happened.

Asked about his first feelings at home, Bout replied: Feelings need to be dealt with. We need to find more words to describe it all."

Bout noted that he didn’t see any anti-Russia sentiments from prison staff.

-ABC News’ Will Gretsky

 
Dec 9, 8:31 AM

Video shows Griner’s wife hearing she’s on her way home

The White House has shared video of the moment Thursday morning when President Joe Biden told Cherelle Griner her wife was on the way home.

"She's on the ground," Biden told Griner as they hugged.

"Stop it," she replied.

'Yep. She's on the ground," Biden said as she hugged him again.

The video also shows Griner exclaim, "It’s just such a good day!” as Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken look on, beaming.

-ABC News’ Molly Nagle

 
Dec 9, 8:17 AM

Kirby says Griner ‘appears to be in good health’

Brittney Griner is “in very good spirits” and “appears to be in good health," National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on MSNBC's “Morning Joe.”

"We've talked to our team on the ground who met her there [in San Antonio] as well as the team that traveled overseas with her on that airplane,” Kirby said. “She's now going to go to the treatment facility, she's going to get looked after by docs and nurses there, just to make sure everything is OK.”

-ABC News’ Molly Nagle

 
Dec 9, 8:16 AM

Brittney Griner arrives back in the United States

A plane believed to be carrying Brittney Griner landed in the U.S. early Friday, nearly 10 months after she was detained in Russia.

TOPSHOT - American basketball star Brittney Griner gets out of a plane after landing at the JBSA-Kelly Field Annex runway on December 9, 2022 in San Antonio, after she was released from a Russian prison in exchange for a notorious arms dealer. © Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP via Getty Images TOPSHOT - American basketball star Brittney Griner gets out of a plane after landing at the JBSA-Kelly Field Annex runway on December 9, 2022 in San Antonio, after she was released from a Russian prison in exchange for a notorious arms dealer.

The Gulfstream jet landed at about 5:30 a.m. ET at San Antonio’s Kelly Air Force Base.

 
Dec 8, 10:14 PM

Griner family thanks Biden administration

Brittney Griner’s family in a statement Thursday night offered their “sincere gratitude” to President Joe Biden and his administration for their efforts in bringing the WNBA star home.

The family also expressed their gratitude to former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Mickey Bergman, the executive director of the Richardson Center for Global Engagement, for their help in facilitating the release.

The statement thanked the family of Paul Whelan, the former U.S. Marine still held captive in Russia, for their support during “a heartbreaking time.”

“We pray for Paul and for the swift and safe return of all wrongfully-detained Americans,” the statement said.

Griner is expected to arrive in the U.S. late Thursday or early Friday.

 
Dec 8, 5:21 PM

Viktor Bout's attorney says swap 'fair'

The attorney for Viktor Bout called the prisoner exchange "fair" in a statement Thursday.

"As we have urged for some time, given the fifteen long years that Viktor Bout has been in custody since the United States government targeted him in 2006, his exchange for Brittney Griner, who has only been in custody for a few months, is fair," the attorney, Steve Zissou, said. "Like Brittney Griner, Viktor Bout will soon be reunited with his family."

Zissou thanked the Russian foreign ministry and Russian President Vladimir Putin for Bout's release from prison.

"Hopefully, this is just the first of many reasonable agreements between the U.S. and Russia that will lead to better relations and a safer world," Zissou said.

The exchange has drawn concern from some U.S. lawmakers, as well as criticism from the Drug Enforcement Administration agent who oversaw the agency's investigation of Bout.

 
Dec 8, 4:22 PM

Video shows Brittney Griner boarding plane in Russia

Video released by Russian state media on Thursday shows Brittney Griner boarding a plane in Russia and saying she’s happy to be heading home.

The video was taken before Griner was released into U.S. custody.

Video: Brittney Griner boards plane in Russia before heading back to US

 
Dec 8, 4:29 PM

Griner will continue to advocate for other Americans held abroad

Lindsay Colas, Brittney Griner's agent, said Griner "has carried herself with courage, grace and grit” and is expressing thanks to everyone who helped bring her home, including U.S. officials, the WNBA and the NBA.

Carly Givens of Phoenix shows support for Brittney Griner, Dec. 8, 2022, in Phoenix. © Rick Scuteri/AP Carly Givens of Phoenix shows support for Brittney Griner, Dec. 8, 2022, in Phoenix.

Colas especially thanked President Joe Biden, who she said “kept his word."

“Also, to so many people around the world who raised their voices and stood with us - especially Black women, the LGBTQ+ community and civil rights leaders - thank you,” Colas said in a statement.

Colas said Griner will continue to advocate for other Americans held abroad and called people out by name, including Paul Whelan, who remains imprisoned in Russia, and Americans who are in Iran, Venezuela, China, Syria, Mali and Rwanda.

“Our commitment to President Biden and to the families of Americans who are being held hostage and wrongfully detained – especially Elizabeth and David Whelan, on behalf of their brother Paul Whelan, who remains in Russia and whose continued detention weighs heavily on our hearts – is to continue our work in the movement to bring them home,” Colas said.

 
Dec 8, 3:44 PM

Swap initiated on Nov. 29 with US Marshals taking custody of Bout

The prisoner swap that resulted in Brittney Griner’s release has been in the works since at least Nov. 29, when the U.S. government requested the removal of Viktor Bout from USP Marion in Marion, Illinois, according to a court document unsealed Thursday.

The document, signed by George Turner, assistant United States attorney from the Southern District of New York, requested the Bureau of Prisons allow U.S. Marshals to take custody of Bout sometime between Dec. 2 and Dec. 16.

The move was “based on the significant foreign policy interests of the United States,” the document said, but did not mention Griner or a prisoner exchange.

In this file photo taken on April 9, 2008, Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout speaks to the press from behind his cell bars of the criminal court detention center in Bangkok. © Saeed Khan/AFP via Getty Images, FILE In this file photo taken on April 9, 2008, Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout speaks to the press from behind his cell bars of the criminal court detention center in Bangkok.

The government expended significant resources and time to bring Bout to justice, but a source familiar with the prosecution of Bout said they recognized the "competing interests" that resulted in his release from U.S. custody.

Whether Bout represents a future threat, this source said that while Bout is not old he has been "out of the game," which would impede his ability to go back to his former operations. However, the source called Bout a "shrewd operator" with "a lot of friends" in Russian military and intelligence circles.

-ABC News' Aaron Katersky

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