Griner freed: WNBA star swapped for Russian, heads home

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In this image made from video provided by Russian Federal Security Service, WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner sits in the plane as she flies to Abu Dhabi to be exchanged for Russian citizen Viktor Bout, in Russia, Friday, Dec. 9, 2022. (Russian Federal Security Service via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — American basketball star Brittney Griner is heading home, freed from Russian prison in exchange for the U.S. releasing notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

Thursday’s dramatic action was the culmination of an eight-month saga of high diplomacy and dashed hopes. But the U.S. failed to win freedom for another American, Paul Whelan, jailed in Russia for nearly four years on espionage charges that his family and the U.S. government say are baseless.

Swap comes during tense times

The swap comes at a time of heightened tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Griner freed swapped for Russian

And it has brought unprecedented attention to the number of what the U.S. considers wrongful detainees.