Russia has freed WNBA player Brittney Griner, who was sentenced to 9 years in prison on cannabis possession charges, as part of a prisoner exchange in which the U.S. released Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
“She’s safe, she’s on a plane, she’s on her way home,” President Joe Biden said Dec. 8 in a statement from the White House, according to the Associated Press.
The Russian Foreign Ministry also confirmed the exchange, the news outlet reported, saying in a statement Thursday that the swap occurred in Abu-Dhabi and that Bout has been flown home.
Bout, a former Soviet Army lieutenant colonel, was serving a 25-year sentence on charges that he conspired to sell tens of millions of dollars’ worth of weapons that U.S. officials said were intended for use against Americans, AP reported.
Griner was taken into custody by Russian authorities in February for allegedly carrying cannabis vape cartridges in her luggage at the Sheremetyevo International Airport, just north of Moscow.
Griner, a center for the Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, has played for the Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg for the past several years during the offseason.
After a month-long trial, Griner was found guilty on cannabis possession charges in a Russian court and sentenced to 9 years in Russian prison in August.
Biden issued a statement following the news of Griner’s sentencing, calling for her immediate release. The Biden administration first offered the prisoner swap involving Bout in late July.