Washington [US], December 10 (ANI): US basketball player Brittney Griner reached her home country on Friday after being released from a Russian prison in exchange for an arms dealer.
United States Principal Deputy Secretary Vedant Patel addressing a press briefing on Friday said that the Griner arrived at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston and was taken to Brooke Army Medical Center for a health checkup.
"The US welcomes the release of Brittney Griner from detention in Russia. I believe you saw Special Envoy Carstens tweet about this late last night, but we can confirm that Brittney Griner arrived at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas earlier today and was taken to Brooke Army Medical Center for routine evaluation," Vedant Patel said in a press briefing.
Griner was released in a prisoner swap that involved Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout who was serving a 25-year sentence in a US prison. The swap took place at an Abu Dhabi airport. US President Joe Biden announced the release of the basketball star in an address to the nation at the White House.
Brittney Griner was arrested at a Moscow airport nine months ago. She was accused of possession of vape cartridges with a small quantity of cannabis oil and sentenced in August to nine years in prison. Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer known as the "Merchant of Death" was detained Thailand in 2008, extradited to the United States, and sentenced in 2012 to 25 years behind bars.
Vedant Patel said that the US administration is focused on ensuring the well-being of Brittney Griner and her family. He stated that all available assistance will be provided to them in an appropriate manner. In the press briefing, Patel said that he will not be going into any other specifics due to security reasons and out of respect for Brittney Griner and her wife Cherelle.
Patel reiterated that the US made efforts for the release of both Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan. He said that the release of Paul Whelan was not possible due to Russia's categorization of his case. He stressed that the US made a difficult decision as it was clear that it was either possible to get Brittney Griner released or no American citizen. He asserted that the US will continue to work tirelessly to ensure the release of Paul Whelan.
"We have been very clear and Secretary Blinken had been very clear, even when he came down to this room to speak about the substantive proposal that had been made to the Russian Federation for the release of both Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the way the Russian Federation has been categorizing Paul's case, that was not possible," Patel said at the press briefing.
He further said, "And it became very clear to us that it was either to bring Brittney home or to bring no American citizen home and so we made the difficult decision to do so. He added, "We are going to continue to work tirelessly to bring Paul home and do everything we can to ensure his safety and to make sure that he can get home as soon as he can."Vedant Patel said that their "strongest desire" was that Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner could be on the flight heading back home. However, he underscored that the US will continue to prioritize the release of Whelan.
Responding to a question regarding the US administration facing criticism for trading weapons dealer for an American citizen, Patel said that there is "no high priority" for the Biden administration than the safety and security of American citizens who are wrongfully detained or held hostage abroad. He termed it a "tough decision" for US President Joe Biden.
Earlier on December 8, the United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken praised the release of American basketball player Brittney Griner from Russian detention. He stated that the administration will continue to make efforts to bring Paul Whelan back to the US.
Blinken made the remarks during a joint press availability with Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom and Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto. He underscored that Russia continues to remain unwilling to end the "wrongful detention" of Paul Whelan.
Speaking at the joint press availability, Blinken expressed gratitude to "Emirati friends", who he stressed assisted in Brittney Griner's transfer. He thanked the US State Department team and colleagues who worked tirelessly to secure the release of Brittney Griner. He emphasised that securing the release of Americans who have been "wrongfully detained" remains a top priority for him. (ANI)