US basketball player Brittney Griner, who was released in a prisoner exchange with Russia, has spoken out publicly for the first time after returning to her homeland. “It feels so good to be home,” the 32-year-old wrote on Instagram.
US basketball player Brittney Griner, who was released in a prisoner exchange with Russia, has spoken out publicly for the first time after returning to her homeland. “It feels so good to be at home,” the 32-year-old wrote on Instagram on Friday.
“The last 10 months have been a constant struggle. I have tried very hard not to lose faith and it has been the love of so many of you that has helped me to move on,” Griner said.
She thanked her supporters, including her wife Cherelle Griner, her lawyers in Russia and US President Joe Biden. Griner also announced that she wanted to play for her team Phoenix Mercury again in the US women’s basketball league WNBA. The season starts in May. Griner added that she will now spend the Christmas holidays with her family.
The two-time Olympic champion was swapped last week at Abu Dhabi airport for the notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout, who had previously been released from US custody. She was then flown to a US military base in San Antonio, Texas, for a medical exam. The news channel CNN, citing Griner’s agent, has now reported that the athlete left the base on Friday and is on her way to the state of Arizona.
The basketball player, who also plays in Russia, was arrested on arrival at a Moscow airport in February. Cartridges for e-cigarettes with small amounts of cannabis oil were found in their luggage. In August, the 32-year-old was sentenced to nine years in prison for drug smuggling.
She was eventually exchanged for Bout after intense negotiations between Russia and the US. Their release brought great relief to many people in the United States – but at the same time the prisoner exchange was sharply criticized by right-wing politicians and the media.
They argued that the US had paid too high a price for Griner by releasing the “dealer of death” Bout. It was also criticized that former US soldier Paul Whelan, who was imprisoned in Russia on charges of espionage, was not released. The US government had tried in vain to get Whelan free as part of the prisoner swap and is continuing its efforts on behalf of the US citizen.
Griner herself said on Friday that she would do everything in her power to help President Biden bring Whelan back to the United States. “Every family deserves to be complete,” she wrote.