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US basketball star Brittney Griner lands in Texas

December 9, 2022

Griner has returned to the US after over 10 months behind bars in Russia, including a stint in a penal colony. She was freed in a prisoner swap in exchange for a Russian arms dealer.

WNBA star Brittney Griner deplanes at Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas
Griner returned to the states after being handed over to US authorities in Abu DhabiImage: Eric Gay/AP/picture alliance

Following her release by Russian authorities as part of a prisoner swap, the US basketball star Brittney Griner landed in Texas on Friday morning, US media reported.

According to the Associated Press, the plane carrying the WNBA player touched down at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.

The 32-year-old was arrested in Russia in February on drug charges and later moved to a penal colony to serve her nine-year sentence.

Airport authorities had found less than a gram of cannabis oil in Griner's luggage and she was later convicted of smuggling drugs. Her detention came amid heightened tensions between Russia and the US over the Kremlin's decision to invade Ukraine.

But she was released as part of a deal between Moscow and Washington which also saw notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout return home.

Exchanged for 'merchant of death'

President Joe Biden said on Thursday that the deal ended the months of "hell" for Griner and her wife.

Griner, who has won two Olympic gold medals, also played professionally in Russia. Her arrest as a Black LGBT woman in a country known for its poor treatment of minorities brought considerable attention to her plight.

The release of a former Soviet Army lieutenant colonel, nicknamed the "merchant of death," shows just how eager the Biden administration was to retrieve Griner.

Bout had been serving a 25-year sentence in the US after having been extradited from Thailand in 2010. He was charged with selling millions of dollars of weapons that were believed to have been used against US citizens.

ab/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)