Back in February, Brittney Griner was arrested at an airport outside of Moscow after customs agents found two small vials of hash oil in her luggage.
The WNBA star was immediately detained, and as the world looked on horror, Griner was convicted in a sham trial and sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony.
Today, her long nightmare came to an end, when the US arranged Griner’s freedom in exchange for the release of Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who has been imprisoned in the US since 2011.
According to a report from CBS News, Griner was released to US officials in Abu Dhabi and is currently aboard a flight bound for San Antonio.
Griner’s situation began to look hopeless after she was transferred from a temporary holding center to a remote Russian penal colony back in August.
But earlier today, President Joe Biden delighted supporters with the announcement that the White House had arranged for Griner’s immediate release and return to the US.
“She’s safe. She’s on a plane. She’s on her way home,” Biden told reporters.
“After months of being unjustly detained in Russia, held under intolerable circumstances, Brittney will soon be back in the arms of her loved ones and she should have been there all along,” the president continued.
“This is a day we’ve worked toward for a long time. We never stopped pushing for her release.”
In a press conference with Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said that US officials will work with Griner discuss “what she needs” once she touches down in Texas.
“She may seek the assistance that the US is going to provide, and we are going to make all of that available to her,” Price told reporters.
“How long she takes advantage of that assistance, that is a question for Brittney Griner, it is a question for Cherelle,” he continued.
“But it is going to be an ongoing conversation we have with them.”
The exchange for Griner’s release was met with some criticism, particularly from those who felt that the White House also should have worked to free Paul Whelan, a US Marine who has been in prison in Russia for the past four years.
“Wait nah!! We left a marine?!! Hell nah,” tweeted Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons.
Parsons later retweeted the president’s announcement with a comment reading, “We still not voting for you!”
The NFL star has since walked back his criticism:
“My last tweet was no shot at Brittney Griner. I’m super happy she’s back home as she should be.
“I just have family who have served and it’s crazy to me the President wouldn’t bring him home too. I’m the furthest thing from a trump supporter but I’m not a fan of Biden either.”
At press time, Griner had not yet spoken publicly about her release.
We will have further updates on this developing story as more information becomes available.