Brittney Griner and Viktor Bout are going home. Griner, the U.S. basketball star arrested leaving Russia with vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage, was released today in a prisoner swap for Viktor Bout, the Russian arms smuggler and "sanctions buster" extradicted to the U.S. in 2011 and jailed there since.
Biden's authorization to release a Russian felon once nicknamed "the Merchant of Death" underscored the escalating pressure that his administration faced to get Griner home, particularly after the recent resolution of her criminal case and her subsequent transfer to a penal colony.
The swap was confirmed by U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the negotiations who were not authorized to publicly discuss the deal before a White House announcement and spoke on condition of anonymity. Biden spoke with Griner on the phone Thursday while her wife, Cherelle, was in the Oval Office. The president was to address reporters later in the morning.