Brittney Greener is in “good spirits” and being evaluated at a US military hospital, officials sayThank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
For the first time in nearly 300 days, Brittney Greener, the American basketball star detained by Russian authorities in February, will spend the night in bed in her homeland.
Griner was “in good spirits” and “incredibly gracious,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told CNN.
Texas Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee told CNN that Greener, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and WNBA superstar, was able to call her father from the plane.
“They all want to see her and they may even want to see her back here at home, but I know it was a happy phone call to hear his daughter’s voice,” Lee said.
Griner went to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, for a routine evaluation, a State Department official told CNN.
The facility will be a big change from the penal colony, where her life has been “exhausting”, according to Lee and according to one of her Russian lawyers, made even more miserable by its unusual size.
Greener’s release was secured after a prisoner swap between the US and Russia that included international arms dealer Victor Bout, who was arrested in 2008 in Thailand and extradited to the US in 2010.
Booth’s move was finalized only after U.S. officials on Thursday saw Greener on the tarmac at the Abu Dhabi airport where the exchange took place, the White House said; President Joe Biden signed Booth’s official release on Dec. 2, according to the document posted on the Justice Department’s website.
A joint statement by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia said the Gulf states had played a role in brokering the exchange between the US and Russia.
The exchange is not a sign of improvements in US-Russian relations, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday.
Greeners arrest and conviction played out against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and added further attention to the plight of other Americans in Russian custody, including Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed. Whelan’s release could not be secured in the last exchange of prisoners, while Reid returned to the US in April after a nearly three-year ordeal.
The Biden administration will continue to negotiate with Russia to secure Whelan’s release, it said Friday. The Russians “have things they want in this world” and Moscow knows the two countries will eventually reach a “mutually acceptable agreement if they keep talking to us,” a senior administration official told CNN.
Biden said the effort to bring Greener home required “painstaking and intense negotiations” as he thanked members of his administration who had been involved.
“This is a day we’ve been working towards for a long time. We have never stopped pushing for her release,” he said on Thursday.
The final deal gathered for more than 48 hours, senior administration officials said, starting the process of moving Greener out of the penal colony where she was serving a lengthy sentence. Biden gave final approval to the prisoner swap, releasing Greener last week, an official familiar with the matter said.
Bout has returned to Russia, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday. The prisoner exchange with Greener was “completed successfully at Abu Dhabi airport” on Thursday, the ministry said.
Griner’s family thanked Biden and his administration in a statement Thursday, as well as former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, whose Richardson Center is working on the family’s behalf to help secure Griner’s release. They also expressed gratitude for the outpouring of public support they received.
“We sincerely thank you all for your kind words, thoughts and prayers – including Paul and the Whelan family, who have been generous with their support for Britney and our family at what we know is a heartbreaking time,” the statement said.
“We pray for Paul and for the speedy and safe return of all wrongfully detained Americans.”
As Greener’s return has been hailed as a diplomatic achievement, officials and supporters have expressed disappointment that Whalen was also unable to return home.
A citizen of the US, Ireland, Britain and Canada, Whelan was detained at a Moscow hotel in December 2018 by Russian authorities who claimed he was involved in an intelligence operation. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison on espionage charges, which he vehemently denied. The US State Department declared him wrongfully detained.
Russia handled the Whelan and Griner cases differently based on what each was charged with, she said, and signaled recently that she would negotiate only for Griner, even though the Biden administration has made offers that Whelan be released as part of this deal.
“This was not a choice about which American to bring home,” Biden said Thursday. “Unfortunately, for completely illegitimate reasons, Russia is treating Paul’s case differently than Britney’s. And although we have not yet been able to secure Paul’s release, we are not giving up. We will never give up.”
Whelan was happy that Greener was released but “disappointed” that the Biden administration did not do more to secure his release, he told CNN Thursday by phone from a penal colony in a remote part of Russia.
“I don’t understand why I’m still sitting here,” he said.
The Biden administration has ideas for “new forms of offers” to try with the Russians to secure Whelan’s release, a senior administration official told CNN on Thursday. There is a recognition that the U.S. needs to provide “something more, something different” than what it has offered so far, the official said, not ruling out offering a Russian spy in American custody in a potential prisoner swap.
“There is a willingness to pay even a very high price on the part of this president,” the official said.
Whelan’s family was happy Griner came home, but “devastated” he was left behind, they said Thursday. The Biden administration notified Whelan’s family of her release before Greener’s announcement, Paul’s brother David Whelan told CNN.
Glimpses of Griner’s time in Russian custody emerged Friday via a video posted by the RIA News Telegram.
A small card with Griner’s photo is zip-tied to a white metal bed frame in what appears to be a bunk room, an undated video shows. No location given. The bed is covered with white sheets, one with a deep blue stripe, and is among five beds visible in the room with pink walls and sheer white curtains along four windows.
In another clip, Griner sports a short haircut — minus his now-famous dreadlocks — as he pushes a two-course tray down the food line, apparently from among dozens of small plates and bowls seen on open serving shelves. Griner then sits down next to a woman at a small square table, raising a utensil to her mouth, shows a still image.
Then, in another, bright room, Griner wears a dark headscarf while sitting across from a woman and writing with a pen on paper, the RIA News Telegram reel shows. Again wearing a headscarf, the American basketball star is in another shot holding a phone and after talking to a woman, he looks up and smiles.
In a final, outdoor scene, Griner leans over a table to write on paper while a woman wearing a hat with an earring speaks, the video shows.
Griner’s Russian lawyer said she cut her hair while in a penal colony to make life easier during the Russian winter. Maria Blagovolina told ESPN — and confirmed to CNN — that Greener cut her hair nearly two weeks ago upon arriving at the prison. Griner told her attorneys that when she washes her hair, she will get cold and she will get cold, Blagovolina said.
Most of the women in the penal colony worked during the day sewing uniforms, but Griner could not sit at the work table because of her height (she is 6-foot-9) and her hands were too large to manage the sewing. Instead, Griner wore cloth all day, her attorney said.
Griner plays for the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA and is a six-time All-Star and two-time Defensive Player of the Year.
For years, she played in the off-season for a Russian women’s basketball team until she was arrested on drug-smuggling charges at a Moscow-area airport in February.
Griner testified that she inadvertently packed the cannabis oil found in her luggage. She was sentenced to nine years in prison in early August and was transferred to a penal colony in Mordovia in mid-November after losing her appeal.
On Friday, Phoenix Mercury president Vince Kozar addressed the question of whether players should continue to play in certain countries during the WNBA offseason.
“Players have incredible freedom of choice about how they choose to make a living and where they choose to play,” he said on CNN. “It’s fair to say that many players have to consider their safety when looking at where they go to make a living overseas.”
“My aim is that the players don’t have to go abroad,” he said. “My goal is for players to be able to play here in the WNBA and make a living, and that’s what we’re working towards here in Phoenix and 11 markets across the country.”
#Brittney #Greener #good #spirits #evaluated #military #hospital #officials