WASHINGTON (AP) — American basketball star Brittney Griner headed home Thursday night, freed from Russian prison
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in exchange for the U.S. releasing notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in 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
for nearly four years.The deal, the second in eight months amid tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, secured the release of the most prominent American detained abroad and achieved a top goal for President
Joe Biden. Yet it carried what U.S. officials conceded was a heavy price.“She’s safe, she’s on a plane, she’s on her way home,” Biden said from the White House, where he was accompanied by Griner’s wife, Cherelle, and administration officials.Biden’s authorization
to release Bout, the Russian felon once nicknamed “the Merchant of Death,” underscored the heightened urgency that his administration faced to get Griner home, particularly after the recent resolution of her criminal case on drug charges
and her subsequent transfer to a penal colony. Griner, who also played pro basketball in Russia, was arrested at an airport there after Russian authorities said she was carrying vape canisters with cannabis oil.