Brittney Griner arrives within the US after being launched from Russian custody in a prisoner trade – KESQ


By Travis Caldwell, Tina Burnside, Rosalina Nieves and Rosa Flores, CNN

Brittney Griner, the American basketball star detained by Russian authorities in February, has returned safely to the US. after being launched from custody in a prisoner trade, in accordance with a CNN group on the bottom.

An individual who gave the impression to be Griner acquired off the aircraft shortly after 5:30 a.m. ET Friday at Kelly Area in San Antonio, the crew stated.

“Very comfortable to have Brittney again on American soil. Welcome dwelling BG!” tweeted Roger Carstens, a State Division official who was touring with Griner, Friday morning.

One in every of his first stops is anticipated to be “at a therapy middle the place he can get the medical care he might have after 10 months in detention,” John Kirby of the Nationwide Safety Council informed CNN on Thursday.


Griner’s launch was secured after a US-Russian prisoner swap involving worldwide arms vendor Viktor Bout, who He was arrested in 2008 in Thailand and extradited to america in 2010.

The trade occurred on Thursday in Abu Dhabi, senior Biden administration officers stated. A joint assertion by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia stated the Gulf international locations performed a mediating position within the trade between america and Russia.

Griner’s arrest and conviction it was set in opposition to the backdrop of the Russian invasion of the Ukraine and added additional consideration to the plight of different People in Russian custody, together with Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed. Whelan’s launch couldn’t be secured within the newest prisoner trade, whereas Reed returned to america in April after a trial of almost three years.

President Joe Biden stated efforts to deliver Griner dwelling took “intense and painstaking negotiations” and he thanked members of his administration who participated.

“It is a day we have now labored for a very long time. We by no means stopped pushing for his launch,” he stated Thursday.

The ultimate deal was closed inside 48 hours, officers stated, starting the method of transferring Griner from the penal colony the place he was serving an extended sentence.

Biden gave closing approval to the prisoner swap that freed Griner over the previous week, an official aware of the matter stated.

Bout has returned dwelling to Russia, the Russian Overseas Ministry stated on Thursday. The prisoner trade with Griner “was efficiently accomplished at Abu Dhabi airport” on Thursday, the ministry stated.

Griner’s household thanked Biden and his administration Thursday in an announcement, in addition to former New Mexico Gov. Invoice Richardson, whose Richardson Heart labored on behalf of the household to assist safe Griner’s launch. Additionally they expressed their gratitude for the massive quantity of public assist they’ve acquired.

“We sincerely thanks all for the type phrases, ideas and prayers, together with Paul and the Whelan household, who’ve been beneficiant of their assist of Brittney and our household throughout what we all know to be a heartbreaking time,” the assertion learn.

“We pray for Paul and for the speedy and protected return of all wrongfully detained People.”

Russia wouldn’t negotiate Whelan’s return, US official says

Whereas Griner’s protected return has been heralded by some as a diplomatic achievement, officers and supporters have expressed disappointment that Whelan was unable to return dwelling.

Whelan, a US, Irish, British and Canadian citizen, was detained at a Moscow resort in December 2018 by Russian authorities who claimed he was concerned in an intelligence operation. He was sentenced to 16 years in jail on espionage costs which he has vehemently denied. The US State Division has declared him wrongfully detained.

The Russians just lately signaled that they had been solely keen to deal for Griner and never Whelan, a US official stated, as a result of Russia stated it has been dealing with its instances in another way based mostly on what every has been accused of.

The Biden administration made repeated provides to launch Whelan as a part of this deal, even after Russia made it clear that solely Griner was acceptable.

In the long run, when it turned clear that Russia would refuse Whelan, america needed to settle for it.

“It was a option to get Brittney or nothing,” the US official stated, including that it was a “troublesome determination” for Biden, however as soon as once more, he felt he needed to make it.

Biden acknowledged that Griner’s launch was going down whereas Whelan was in jail, saying Whelan’s household “has acquired to have such blended feelings right this moment.”

“This was not a alternative of which American to deliver dwelling,” Biden stated. “Sadly, for completely illegitimate causes, Russia is treating Paul’s case in another way than Brittney’s. And whereas we nonetheless have not managed to safe Paul’s launch, we’re not giving up. We by no means surrender.”

In an announcement, Griner’s household stated: “We sincerely thank everybody for the type phrases, ideas and prayers, together with Paul and the Whelan household, who’ve been beneficiant of their assist of Brittney and our household throughout what we all know is a heartbreaking time.

“We pray for Paul and for the speedy and protected return of all wrongfully detained People.”

The Whelan household worries about what comes subsequent

whelian informed CNN in an unique telephone name from the penal colony the place he’s being held in a distant a part of Russia that he was “disenchanted” that the Biden administration has not completed extra to safe his launch. Whelan stated he was comfortable Griner was launched, however “he was led to imagine that issues had been shifting in the fitting course, that governments had been negotiating and that one thing would occur fairly quickly.”

“I do not perceive why I am nonetheless sitting right here,” he stated.

Whelan had been serving his sentence in a labor camp in Mordovia, an eight-hour drive from Moscow, the place he informed CNN in June 2021 that he spent his days working in a garment manufacturing unit he known as a “sweatshop.” .

The Biden administration has concepts about “new types of offers” they are going to attempt with the Russians in an effort to safe Whelan’s launch, a senior administration official informed CNN on Thursday.

The official stated there’s a recognition that the US must make obtainable “one thing extra, one thing totally different” than what they’ve provided the Russians up to now, and didn’t rule out providing a Russian spy in US custody in a potential prisoner trade. .

“There’s a willingness to pay even a really excessive worth on the a part of this president,” the official stated. “We’ve got made it clear to the Russians that we’re no less than open to speaking about what is out there to us, what we are able to actually supply. It could be somebody in our custody.

Richardson stated he expects Whelan to return dwelling by the tip of the 12 months.

“We’ve got tried, my basis, for 4 years to get Whelan out and by some means it at all times falls quick. … Probably on the espionage cost, as a result of he’s a Marine, he was wrongfully detained, the Russians held him till the tip. And that is what occurred once more, however that does not imply there is no likelihood we are able to get it out. I believe we are able to,” Richardson informed CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

Whelan’s household expressed happiness on the information that Griner is on his manner dwelling, however stated Thursday they’re “devastated” that he was left behind.

“It is a nice day for the households of these wrongfully detained and we really feel superb for them,” David Whelan, Paul’s brother, stated on “CNN This Morning.” “However we do fear about Paul’s future. I believe it has develop into clear that america doesn’t have any concessions that the Russian authorities desires for Paul. So I am not fairly positive what the long run holds.”

The Biden administration informed Whelan’s household earlier than Griner’s announcement, David Whelan stated.

The CNN Wire
™ & © 2022 Cable Information Community, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery firm. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Jennifer Hansler, Kylie Atwood, Jeremy Herb, MJ Lee, Kevin Liptak, Abby Phillip and Elizabeth Wolfe contributed to this report.

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