(Washington, DC) — WNBA star Brittney Griner is free Thursday after the Biden administration negotiated her release from a Russian penal colony in exchange for an arms dealer, according to a senior administration official.
President Joe Biden signed off on the trade, which took place in the United Arab Emirates, even though it meant leaving behind Paul Whelan, an American corporate security executive who remains jailed in Russia.
“She is safe, she is on a plane, she is on her way home,” Biden said in remarks from the White House on Thursday morning. “She will soon be back in the arms of her loved ones and she should have been there all along.”
“I’m proud that today we have made one more family whole,” Biden said, adding that he will continue to work to free Whelan. “We’ll keep negotiating for Paul’s relief. I guarantee it.”
Brittney Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, was in the Oval Office with Biden and the two were able to speak with her by phone, according to a senior administration official.
Cherelle Griner, speaking after Biden, expressed her “sincere gratitude” to Biden and several other officials she mentioned by name for their work.
Griner will be flown to a medical facility in San Antonio where she will receive care, a senior administration official said. Cherelle Griner, will meet her there, according to a senior administration official.