After nearly 10 months in a Russian prison, the WNBA star is healing at a military facility in Texas

The Case of Brittney B. Biden, a Russian Penal Colonist, and the President’s Remark on Bout for Griner

She’s fine. She is on a plane. “After being held in Russia under intolerable conditions, she is on her way home.” Biden exclaimed from the Roosevelt Room.

Biden and the administration had made securing her release a priority, and he was under increased pressure to do so. She wrote a letter in July, saying she was afraid she would be here forever. Biden said last month that he wanted the Russian president to be more willing to talk about a prisoner exchange when the elections were over.

The foreign ministry said that they agreed with the American side on an exchange of Bout for Griner. “The Russian citizen has been returned to his homeland.”

The US government has always resisted prisoner swaps out of concern that they could cause more Americans to be imprisoned abroad. The exchange for Bout should not be interpreted as a new normal practice, but that there are times where there are no alternatives, a Biden official said.

The official said the administration felt a moral obligation and policy obligation to bring people that are being held hostage home.

“We start by asking ourselves this question: How is it acceptable for someone like Brittney Griner to be put through sham proceedings and forced to spend [time] … in a Russian penal colony, in horrific circumstances that she did not deserve? And we regard that as unacceptable,” the official said.

Whelan said he was happy Griner was released, but told CNN, “I am greatly disappointed that more has not been done to secure my release, especially as the four year anniversary of my arrest is coming up.”

“This was not a situation where we had a choice of which American to bring home,” an official told reporters on a conference call. “It was the choice of either bringing one American home or not bringing a single American home.”

The woman said she was overwhelmed by emotion and indebted to Biden and other members of the administration who helped secure her wife’s release. She thanked the WNBA, Griner’s agent and others.

She donned a pair of black Chuck Taylor shoes, Phoenix Suns shorts and a T-shirt touting Title IX as she returned to the court after a long hiatus. At the time of his imprisonment in Russia, he was offered a basketball and a hoop but turned them down, Colas said.

Despite her testimony that she had inadvertently packed the cannabis oil in her luggage, Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison in early August and was moved to a penal colony in the Mordovia republic in mid-November after losing her appeal.

The two-time gold medal winner visited Moscow last February to play in the Russian basketball league. Griner was detained on drug charges upon arrival after customs officials found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage. The oil was prescribed legally to address chronic pain issues, and the violation of Russian law was not intentional.

A U.S. official visited Whelan’s sister on Wednesday to share the news about Griner, and a U.S. official also spoke to Whelan himself in prison to share the news. Biden intends to speak with Whelan’s family as well, the official told reporters.

CNN’s Cost of Chaos: The Case of Paul Whelan and the Detention of a Former Marine in the U.S.

Peter Bergen is an analyst on CNN’s national security team, a vice president at New America and a professor at Arizona State University. Bergen is the author of “The Cost of Chaos: The Trump Administration and the World.” The views expressed in this commentary are his own. You can watch more opinion on CNN.

Griner’s release has brought attention to another American still being held by the Russians: Paul Whelan, who has been detained since 2018 on what the US government says are spurious espionage changes. Whelan has denied the allegations. He was reportedly transferred to a prison hospital at the end of November.

At least 60 Americans are being held hostage abroad, according to the organization. Iran, Russia, China, Venezuela, and Syria are all where most of the people arrested are from.

Take the case of Trevor Reed, a former US Marine, who was detained by the Russians in 2019 on espionage charges that he has always denied. Reed was exchanged for Yaroshenko, who had been imprisoned in the US for 20 years for selling drugs. Yaroshenko denied the charges against him.

Or consider the case of Mark Frerichs, an American contractor working in Afghanistan, who was held for more than two years by the Taliban (now the de facto Afghan government). Frerichs was released in exchange for clemency for Haji Bashir Noorzai, who was in prison in the US on drug trafficking charges for 17 years. The Bush administration described Noorzai as one of the most-wanted drug dealers the year before his arrest. The Taliban had been after the release of Noorzai, who they regard as an important ally.

Or take the case of the seven Americans detained in Venezuela for many years, who were exchanged two months ago for a couple of Venezuelans imprisoned in the US for conspiring to smuggle cocaine. Both of the convicted drug dealers are nephews of Venezuela’s first lady.

The return of the basketball star Brittney Griner after her long stint in the U.S.-Russia prisoner exchange for Viktor Bout

What will be the price of releasing Whelan? Surely, it will be something. It will be difficult for the Biden administration to decide how much it wants to pay.

Brittney Griner departed a medical military facility in Texas on Friday and headed home to Arizona, vowing in an Instgram post to play in the WNBA this season as she took another step in her reintegration into American life after her detention in Russia.

The basketball star – who was released Thursday as part of a prisoner exchange between the US and Russia for notorious convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout – arrived at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio for a routine evaluation early Friday, and officials have not specified how long she will be there.

On the day of her release, Griner was given a sense she would be going home, Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens, who led the mission to conduct the prisoner exchange in the United Arab Emirates, told CNN.

The release of the basketball star through the prisoner exchange marked an end to months of captivity after he was arrested at a Russian airport on drug charges, and then sentenced to nine years in prison.

Griner also got a haircut to clean up what family and friends jokingly called her “Russian fade.” Her long, signature dreadlocks were cut while in captivity as she continuously battled the flu because her wet hair kept freezing, according to Colas.

Most of the women in the penal colony worked sewing uniforms, but the 6-foot-9 Olympic gold medalist was too tall to sit at a work table and her hands were too big to manage the sewing, so she carried fabric all day, her attorney said.

The US State Department is trying to make sure that all available assistance can be offered to the family in an appropriate manner.

“We’ve got to give them a little space, a little time to readjust because they’ve had a horrendous experience in these Russian prisons,” said Richardson, who served as US ambassador to the United Nations in the Clinton administration.

But it didn’t feel real until the moment he was able to board the plane and tell her that “on behalf of the President of the United States, Joe Biden, and Secretary of State Tony Blinken, I’m here to take you home,” Carstens said.

“When she finally got on to the US plane, I said, ‘Brittney, you must have been through a lot over the last 10 months. Here is your seat. Please let us know if you want to relax. We’ll give you your space,’” Carstens recalled.

She said, Oh no. I am listening to Russian in prison, and I would like to talk. First of all, who are these guys? And she moved right past me and went to every member on that crew, looked them in the eyes, shook their hands and asked about them and got their names, making a personal connection with them. It was really amazing,” Carstens said.

Britney Griner – Arrival Monday: Reintegration in the U.S. can take time and effort, says Citgo 6 savant Miguel Toledo

Griner’s friend, WNBA player Angel McCoughtry, said she knows Griner will need time and space, but believes she’ll eventually return to the basketball court.

“We missed her last year. It wasn’t the same in the WNBA without her,” McCoughtry said. She won’t start exercising until May because we don’t start until then, so she will need a while to get back into shape.

reintegration into society can take time and effort, that’s what one of the “Citgo 6” told CNN Saturday. Toledo was released in October – also as part of a prisoner swap – after being detained while on a 2017 business trip to Venezuela with other oil and gas executives from the Citgo Corporation.

Having spent five years in captivity, Toledo said he came home with trouble sleeping and other health issues, and saw minor, everyday tasks like driving become sources of anxiety.

Toledo said he was part of a program in San Antonio that involved six days with a group of psychologists. He said the program was “extremely important” for his reintegration and hopes Griner can take advantage of similar resources.


Paul Whelan and the American people: What have we learned in her last 10 months? Paul and Brittney say goodbye to the U.S.

The president said last week that this was not a choice of who to bring home. “Sadly, for totally illegitimate reasons, Russia is treating Paul’s case differently than Brittney’s. We are not giving up on obtaining Paul’s release, despite the fact that we haven’t succeeded yet. We will never give up.”

It feels great to be at home. The last 10 months have been a battle at every turn,” she wrote in her post. “I dug deep to keep my faith and it was the love from so many of you that helped keep me going. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone.

She expressed her gratitude to each person who supported her, and thanked the staff at the Texas military facility. She remembered another foreign prisoner in Russia who wasn’t released in the prisoner swap that secured her freedom.

“President Biden, you brought me home and I know you are committed to bringing Paul Whelan and all Americans home too,” she said. I will do whatever I can to help you. I also encourage everyone that played a part in bringing me home to continue their efforts to bring all Americans home. Every family should be treated with the same respect.

Her representatives wouldn’t confirm where she was headed, citing security concerns, though she was heading back to Arizona. CNN previously reported that Griner and her wife, Cherelle, had already made plans to move upon her return to the United States.

Britney Griner returns to the United States after a Russian prisoner swap for a convicted Russian criminal sleuth dealer Viktor Bout

Her detention, after Russian officials found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage, became an international cause during a delicate time in relations between Washington and Moscow. US officials deemed it a wrongful detention.

The Mercury center became a pawn in Russia’s war in Ukraine and returned to the US on December 9 after the prisoner swap for notorious convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

The US and Russia played a delicate dance over the course of months. The US enacted sanctions in response to the conflict while diplomats kept open lines of communication with Moscow over prisoner negotiations.

Whelan is a US, Irish, British and Canadian citizen who is imprisoned in a Russian penal colony after he was arrested in December 2018 on espionage charges, which he has denied. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

Colas said she was thinking about his family and was going to call them as soon as she got home. She is committed to giving this story to the population of Americans who have been wrongly arrested.

Griner stayed at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio for a week for routine evaluation. She stayed with her wife in a residential facility on the base. A Christmas tree decorated their living space.

“I appreciate the time and care to make sure I was okay and equipped with the tools for this new journey,” she wrote on Instagram, referring to staff at the San Antonio base.


The Griner Prisoner Exchange and the Recovery of a Dangerously Detained American Prisoner: A Voice for the Reconciliation of Biden and Whelan

The Griner prisoner exchange prompted criticism from Republicans, who accused the Biden administration of releasing a dangerous prisoner back to Russia while not securing Whelan’s release.

Russian officials have made it clear that releasing Bout was the only way that they would be freed from her captivity.

She opted into the Department of Defense’s post-isolation program, which other wrongfully detained Americans, including Reed, have participated in, according to Colas. The program helps people who’ve been held for a long time regain a sense of control over their lives.

It was her first public appearance after being released from Russia, and she spoke at the NAACP’s 54th Image Awards calling for the return of Americans still imprisoned abroad.

Griner and her wife, Cherelle Griner, were welcomed onto the stage by award ceremony host and actress Queen Latifah, who applauded the couple for their resilience.

“I want to take this moment to recognize someone who has done just that by overcoming adversity as we gather here tonight in the spirit of overcoming,” Queen Latifah said.

Nearly two thirds of wrongly detained people are eventually released, rescued or escape, while nearly a third are still in police custody and almost half are held for over four years, according to a report.

A similar note to her plea was struck by Biden at the press conference, when he recalled a previous letter from Griner back in July.

Previous post Israeli military admits shooting a 16-year-old Palestinian girl
Next post The EPA chief pledged to hold the train company accountable over the Ohio train disaster