President Joe Biden announced that WNBA star Brittney Griner has been released from a Russian prison on Thursday in exchange for arms trafficker Victor Bout.

After months of negotiation, Biden signed off the trade that set the basketball star free and, in exchange, the U.S. will send Bout back to Russia after more than 12 years in custody.

This means that American corporate security executive Paul Whelan will remain jailed in Russia. U.S. diplomats had hoped to include Whelan in any deal.


“Moments ago, standing together with her wife, Cherelle, in the Oval Office, I spoke with Brittney Griner,” said Biden on Thursday morning. “She is safe, she is on a plane, she is on her way home… She will soon be back in the arms of her loved ones and she should have been there all along.”

“I’m proud that today we have made one more family whole,” he added. “We’ll keep negotiating for Paul’s relief. I guarantee it.”

Biden said that Russia is treating Whelan’s case differently and it was not a choice of “which American to bring home.” He said he’ll keep working on free Whelan.

“While we have not yet succeeded in securing Paul’s release, we are not giving up. We are never giving up,” he said.

David Whelan, Paul’s brother, said the news was “a disappointment” for them and “a catastrophe” for Paul. But they understand the decision.

“The Biden administration made the right decision to bring Ms. Griner home and to make the deal that was possible, rather than waiting for one that wasn’t going to happen,” said David.

Read more about: