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Brittney Griner: UAE facilitated basketballer's swap for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout

US president thanks Emiratis, as prisoner exchange takes place in Abu Dhabi between Griner and notorious Russian arms dealer
US basketball player Brittney Griner leaves the courtroom before the court's final decision in Khimki outside Moscow on 4 August 2022 (AFP)
US basketball player Brittney Griner leaves the courtroom before the court's final decision in Khimki outside Moscow on 4 August 2022 (AFP)

The United Arab Emirates has facilitated the release of American basketball player Brittney Griner from Russia, US President Joe Biden said on Thursday, in an exchange deal with notorious arms deal Viktor Bout. 

The athlete was released following a prisoner swap for Bout, a Russian citizen, who was serving a 25-year sentence in the United States.  

Biden thanked the UAE “for helping us facilitate Brittney’s return, because that’s where she landed” on her way back to the US. 

Saudi Arabia and UAE said in a joint statement that mediation efforts by their leaders had led to the swap between Griner and Bout, both of whom landed in Abu Dhabi today.

“On 8 December 2022, at the Abu Dhabi airport, the exchange of Russian citizen Viktor Bout for US citizen Brittney Griner... was successfully completed," Russia’s foreign ministry said on Thursday. 

Griner was arrested on 17 February, a week before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, at an airport in Moscow for having vape cartridges with cannabis oil in her possession. She was sentenced in August to nine years in prison.  

"She's safe, she's on a plane, she's on her way home after months of being unjustly detained in Russia, held under intolerable circumstances," Biden told reporters at the White House. 

"This is a day we've worked toward for a long time. We never stopped pushing for her release."

Bout, 55, was one of the world's most wanted men, selling weapons to rebel groups and warlords internationally, before his arrest in 2012. 

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