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The Gulfstream jet landed at about 5:30 a.m. ET at San Antonio’s Kelly Air Force Base as the WNBA star and Olympic gold medalist was released from Russian custody in exchange for Viktor Bout, an alleged armed dealer who had been convicted by a US court of conspiring to kill Americans.
Griner’s release is no sign of US-Russia improved relations
CNN reports the exchange comes amid a deep chill in the Washington-Moscow relationship, and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reiterated, “It would be wrong to draw any hypothetical conclusions that this could be a step out of the crisis that we are having in bilateral relations.” He continued, “Bilateral relations remain in a sorry state.”
This is Viktor Bout, the guy the U.S. just traded for Brittney Griner pic.twitter.com/AzazDiEr1y
— Reginald ??? #ForeverTrill (@SheerOpulence2) December 8, 2022
As Griner returns to family, friends, and supporters in the US, she will also do so as the latest target of right-wing outrage. Most notably, many are criticizing her release after 9 months as wrongfully imprisoned Paul Whelan has remained in Russia for nearly four years.
On Thursday, Whelan said he was happy that Brittney Griner was released, but told CNN, “I am greatly disappointed that more has not been done to secure my release, especially as the four year anniversary of my arrest is coming up.”
Republicans and right-wing media figures have found a litany of reasons to be mad about the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was freed in a prisoner swap after nearly a year in the Kremlin’s clutches. https://t.co/I8WUQruypS via @HuffPostPol
— Eugene Chin (@gene038) December 9, 2022
I agree. It’s hard to believe other world leaders don’t have a problem with this deal.
The Morning Briefing: Brittney Griner Should Have Been Left to Rot in Russia https://t.co/imqW6bZiDF
— sunflowerNC (@sunflowerNC) December 9, 2022
Musk reacts after Biden swaps Russian arms dealer for WNBA star Brittney Griner: ‘Never leave a Marine behind’https://t.co/YHJwgGuicQ
— Bruce Chambers (@Bruce2666) December 9, 2022
While Whelan, along with his brother, are supportive of Griner’s release, he continues to fight for his own safe return to the US so he too can be reunited with his loved ones, like Brittney.