Brittney Griner trade news live: WNBA star arrives at San Antonio army hospital in US after being released by Russia in exchange for Viktor Bout

Brittney Griner back on US soil after spending 294 days in Russian prison

Brittney Griner has landed back on US soil for the first time in 10 months after she was released from Russian custody in a prisoner swap with “Merchant of Death” Viktor Bout.

The WNBA star arrived at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio early on Friday morning, where she will be examined and receive any necessary medical treatment.

Footage showed Ms. Griner and Bout being exchanged on the tarmac of a runway in the UAE on Thursday, following weeks of negotiations between Washington and Moscow.

The deal failed to include US Marine Paul Whelan who has been detained in Russia for the last four years. Mr Whelan told CNN he was “greatly disappointed” to learn he was not part of the prisoner swap, saying: “I don’t understand why I’m still sitting here.”

President Joe Biden insisted on Thursday that “we’ve not forgotten about Paul Whelan” and vowed to “never give up” securing his release, as the swap divided opinion across the country. The White House was also forced to deny claims made by Saudi Arabia and the UAE that MBS negotiated the deal.

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‘Merchant of Death’ Viktor Bout says the West wants Russia to crumble

Viktor Bout, a notorious arms dealer, was released this week in a prisoner exchange between the US and Russia for former WNBA star Brittney Griner. After his release he shared his views about his captors with Russian media, according to the Associated Press.

“The West believes that it has failed to finish us off when the Soviet Union began to collapse,” Bout said. “And our efforts to live independently, be an independent power is a shock to them.”

Russian state media hailed Bout’s return.

“Everyone will forget about Griner tomorrow,” Yevgeny Popov, a Russian state media host, wrote on Telegram on Thursday. “Bout’s life is only beginning.”

Graig Gracious9 December 2022 16:46

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Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters on Friday in the wake of Brittney Griner’s release that more prisoner swaps with the US may be possible in the future.

According to the Associated Press, Mr. Putin said that “everything is possible” when asked if there may be more prisoner exchanges in the future.

“We are not refusing to continue this work in the future,” he said.

It’s unclear what that may mean for Paul Whelan, an American who has been locked up in Russia since 2018. The White House pushed for his release alongside Griner’s, but reports indicated Russia was not willing to release Mr. Whelan.

Joe Biden said he would “never give up” trying to secure Mr. Whelan’s release.

Read more in the Independent Premium story below…

Graig Gracious9 December 2022 16:20

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Pentagon admits it has ‘concerns’ over release of ‘Merchant of Death’

An unnamed Pentagon official said there are some concerns within the defense agency regarding the release of Viktor Bout, the “Merchant of Death” arms dealer, back into the world.

Bout was freed by the US as part of a prisoner swap to secure the release of Brittney Griner.

“I think there is a concern that he would return to doing the same kind of work that he’s done in the past,” an unnamed Defense Department official told Political.

Read more at The Independent below.

Graig Gracious9 December 2022 15:56

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Putin says future prisoner swaps possible

Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters on Friday in the wake of Brittney Griner’s release that more prisoner swaps with the US may be possible in the future.

According to the Associated Press, Mr. Putin said that “everything is possible” when asked if there may be more prisoner exchanges in the future.

“We are not refusing to continue this work in the future,” he said.

It’s unclear what that may mean for Paul Whelan, an American who has been locked up in Russia since 2018. The White House pushed for his release alongside Griner’s, but reports indicated Russia was not willing to release Mr. Whelan.

Joe Biden said he would “never give up” trying to secure Mr. Whelan’s release.

Graig Gracious9 December 2022 15:32

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A history of US-Russian prisoner swaps

The prisoner trade that saw Brittney Griner released from Russian custody is the latest in a long history of prisoner exchanges going back decades between the former Cold War adversaries.

These at-times daring transactions are often the result of intense back channel negotiations, as imprisoned citizens become pawns in a broader geopolitical war.

Bevan Hurley9 December 2022 15:10

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WATCH: Moment Brittney Griner lands back on US soil

Brittney Griner landed back on US soil for the first time in 10 months after she was released from Russian custody in a prisoner swap with “Merchant of Death” Viktor Bout.

A plane carrying the WNBA star landed at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio at around 5:30am ET on Friday morning.

Watch the moment she arrived back on US soil here.

Brittney Griner back on US soil after spending 294 days in Russian prison

Bevan Hurley9 December 2022 14:47

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Former Russian spy Maria Butina claims prisoner swap shows Moscow in ‘position of strength’

Former Russian spy Maria Butina has claimed that the prisoner swap of Brittney Griner for Viktor Bout shows Moscow is in a “position of strength”.

On Thursday, Ms Butina celebrated the release of Bout – a convicted arms dealer known as the “Merchant of Death” who was serving a 25-year prison sentence in the US on a litany of charges, including conspiracy to kill Americans.

“The fact that Russia pushed through the exchange of Bout, whom America fundamentally did not want to give away for many years, right now means that, like in The Godfather, we ‘made them an offer that cannot be refused,'” she said .

“This is a position of strength, comrades.”

Ms. Butina herself served 15 months in a US prison on conspiracy charges.

Rachel Sharp9 December 2022 14:25

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Trump turned down Paul Whelan and Viktor Bout prisoner swap years ago, John Bolton says

Former National Security Adviser John Bolton has revealed that Donald Trump turned down the chance to secure Paul Whelan’s release years ago – despite the former president claiming to be outraged over the Biden administration’s deal which freed Brittney Griner but left the US marine still in Russian custody.

Mr Bolton, who was the national security adviser under Mr Trump for 17 months from 2018 to 2019, told CBS that the Trump administration had the opportunity to trade Mr Whelan for convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout in 2018.

“The possibility of a Bout-for-Whelan trade existed back then and it wasn’t made, for very good reasons having to deal with Viktor Bout,” he said.

Mr Whelan, a US, Canadian, British and Irish citizen who served in the US Marines from 2003 to 2008, was arrested in Russia in December 2018.

The Independent‘s Rachel Sharp has the full story:

Rachel Sharp9 December 2022 14:05

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Pentagon admits concern that Viktor Bout will return to dealing arms

The Pentagon has admitted that US officials are concerned Viktor Bout will return to dealing arms following his release on Thursday.

A senior Defense Department official told Politico that the Biden administration is fearful that Bout could return to his past of illegally trafficking weapons – something that could pose a danger to America.

“I think there is a concern about that [he] would return to doing the same kind of work that he’s done in the past,” the anonymous official said.

Bout is a notorious arms dealer who earned the nickname the “Merchant of Death”.

At the time of his release on Thursday, he was in the middle of a 25-year sentence in a US prison on multiple charges including conspiring to kill Americans.

Rachel Sharp9 December 2022 13:45

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Brittney Griner’s family thanks Biden for release

Brittney Griner’s family has released a statement thanking President Joe Biden for her release from Russian custody.

“We would like to extend our sincere gratitude to President Biden and his administration for the tireless work they did to bring Brittney home,” it reads.

“We would also like to extend a special thank you to Governor Richardson and Mickey Bergman of the Richardson Center for their work, as well as remaining in constant communication with us.”

The family went on to thank Paul Whelan and his family for their support as they hope that he too will be released soon.

“We sincerely thank you all for the kind words, thoughts and prayers — including Paul and the Whelan family who have been generous with their support for Brittney and our family during what we know is a heartbreaking time. We pray for Paul and for the swift and safe return of all wrongfully-detained Americans,” the statement read.

“We ask that you respect our privacy as we embark on this road to healing. The Griner Family”

Rachel Sharp9 December 2022 13:25

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