American basketball star Brittney Griner returned to the United States after she was released from a Russian prison in exchange for an arms dealer known as the “Merchant of Death.”
Griner’s family and WNBA teammates rejoiced at the news that the star athlete’s imprisonment in Russia on drug charges had come to an end.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry meanwhile said it had worked hard “to rescue our compatriot” Viktor Bout, a notorious arms dealer accused of arming rebels in some of the world’s bloodiest conflicts.
But the Biden administration’s willingness to give up Bout for Griner — who was charged for carrying vape cartridges with a small quantity of cannabis oil — sparked worries that Washington’s adversaries could capture American citizens abroad to use as bargaining chips.
And Moscow has dismissed the idea that the swap reflects any wider thaw in ties between the U.S. and Russia, which are at historic lows after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Russian state news agencies published photos of the exchange, as well as images of Griner in the remote prison colony where she served several weeks of her sentence before being freed: