Brittney Griner live updates: WNBA star swapped for Viktor Bout in prisoner exchange

(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. has swapped WNBA star Brittney Griner for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, according to a senior U.S. official.

The basketball star was taken into custody at a Moscow area airport earlier this year in possession of vaping cartridges containing hashish oil, an illegal substance in Russia.

Griner pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nine years in prison.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Dec 08, 8:53 AM ESTCherelle Griner calls past months ‘one of the darkest moments of my life’

Brittney Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, called the past months “one of the darkest moments of my life,” but flashed a large smile on her face knowing “BG” will be home soon.

“Today I’m just standing here overwhelmed with emotions, but the most important emotion that I have right now is just sincere gratitude for President Biden and his entire administration,” she said as she stood alongside President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

“It’s a happy day for me and my family,” she said.

Dec 08, 8:45 AM ESTLavrov confirms swap, Putin pardoned Griner

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov confirmed that Griner was released and the prisoner exchange was carried out at Abu Dhabi Airport.

“For a long time, the Russian Federation has been negotiating with the United States on the release of V.A. Bout,” Lavrov said in a statement. “Washington categorically refused to engage in dialogue on the inclusion of the Russian in the exchange scheme. Nevertheless, the Russian Federation continued to actively work to rescue our compatriot.”

“As a result of the efforts made, it was possible to agree with the American side on the organization of the exchange of V.A.Bout for B. Griner,” he continued.

The U.S. has said for months it had offered Bout as part of a prisoner swap for Griner and Russian detained ex-Marine Paul Whelan.

Ombudsman of the Russian Federation Tatyana Moskalkova said Putin pardoned Griner before her release in the swap and she and Bout “should not serve the rest of their sentences in their respective countries.”

Dec 08, 8:34 AM ESTWho is Viktor Bout?

Griner has been swapped for the convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, according to a senior U.S. official.

Bout was arguably the world’s best-known illegal arms trafficker and his capture in 2008 at a hotel in Thailand came at the end of a nearly decade-long hunt by the U.S.

Bout, 55, emerged as a kingpin in the global illegal arms trade during the 1990s, accused of fueling some of the world’s bloodiest conflicts, particularly in Africa. Sourcing weapons from the huge stockpiles of the collapsed Soviet Union, the Russian used a fleet of Soviet-built transport aircraft to supply vast quantities of arm, often circumventing international embargoes.

Dec 08, 8:27 AM ESTBiden speaks to Griner aboard plane

President Joe Biden shared a photo of himself talking on the phone to Brittney Griner from the White House, along with Vice President Kamala Harris, saying she was on a plane, safe and headed home.

He is also shown hugging Cherelle Griner, Brittney’s wife.

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