January 27, 2023

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Griner lands in U.S. as Russia’s Bout greets family in Moscow By Reuters

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© Reuters. A person steps off the plane that arrived carrying U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner, following her release from prison in Russia, in San Antonio, Texas, U.S., December 9, 2022. REUTERS/Kaylee Greenlee Beal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Basketball star Brittney Griner landed in the United States on Friday after 10 months in Russian detention that ended with a prisoner swap with arms dealer Viktor Bout who flew home hours earlier to embrace his family on the airport tarmac in Moscow.

Thursday’s swap was a rare instance of U.S.-Russian cooperation after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, although the Kremlin was quick to say it did not show improving relations.

The two countries had swapped prisoners in April when Russia released former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed and the United States released Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko.

Griner, 32, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and star of the Women’s National Basketball Association’s Phoenix Mercury, flew in to San Antonio, Texas. She had been arrested on Feb. 17 at a Moscow airport after vape cartridges containing cannabis oil, which is banned in Russia, were found in her luggage.

U.S. President Joe Biden announcing her release on Thursday said the swap ended what he described as months of “hell” for her and her wife.

As Griner flew back home, Bout arrived in Moscow and hugged his mother and wife after stepping onto the tarmac, television images showed.