New video footage shows the moment WNBA center Brittney Griner was swapped for smiling convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout at Abu Dhabi Airport.
The footage shows Griner and Bout walking past each other on the tarmac. Neither seemed to acknowledge the other.
According to DailyMail.com, the prisoner exchange was brokered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman 48 hours after President Biden dropped a lawsuit holding him responsible for the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Americans expressed outrage over the prisoner exchange of a very dangerous terrorist, dubbed “the Merchant of Death.”
What about the thousands who will die because Viktor Bout is free?
— Joe Gartrell – God Knows Physics (@joegartrell) December 8, 2022
NEW: Brittney Griner is seen saying she's "happy" after boarding a plane amid an exchange for Russian prisoner Viktor Bout. The video, released by Russian state media, also shows Griner filling out paperwork and Bout talking to officials. FULL VIDEO: https://t.co/03ERrrN4v7 pic.twitter.com/KouschvSt4
— ABC15 Arizona (@abc15) December 8, 2022
Critics questioned why Griner was released while former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan and teacher Mark Fogel are still incarcerated in Russia.
President Biden confirmed Griner’s release on Thursday morning, saying, the “past few months have been hell for Brittney”.
“We never forgot about Brittney,” Biden said. “I’m glad to be able to say Brittney is in good spirits. She’s relieved to finally be heading home, and the fact remains that she’s lost months of her life, experienced a needless trauma. She deserves space, privacy and time with her loved ones to recover and heal from her time being wrongfully detained.”
Speaking from a Russian prison, Whelan said he was “greatly disappointed” the Biden administration didn’t secure his release alongside Griner. He added that he was ready to “go home”.
Whelan was arrested in Russia in 2018 on charges of espionage. The U.S. is still negotiating for his release.
Republican leader Kevin McCarthy called it “unconscionable” to leave a Marine behind. He said Viktor Bout’s release was “a gift to Putin”.
“Merchant of Death – that’s the nickname of the prisoner Biden returned to Putin. He was convicted of conspiring to kill American law enforcement,” McCarthy said Thursday.
Illinois Republican Adam Kinzinger, a House Rep., also tweeted, “So a basketball star is released, we can celebrate, but what about Paul Whelan? An American unjustly detained for years.”
Griner, an eight-time WNBA all-star center and a 2-time Olympic gold medalist, was convicted Aug. 4 for smuggling cannabis oil in vape cartridges into Russia.
The 32-year-old was sentenced to serve 9 years in prison. After losing an appeal of her sentence, she was transferred to a brutal women’s penal colony labor camp where she was expected to work 16-hour days and subsist on one meal per day that smelled so foul even the feral cats wouldn’t eat it.
Not for the release of Griner, but the release of Viktor Bout. Ask the federal agents who spent years tracking this guy down and setting up a sting in Thailand in order to capture him & put him behind bars in the first place. Ask them what they think of the trade. Big mistake
— Charles Auchinleck (@auchinleckchuck) December 8, 2022
Frankly I don't care about Griner one way or the other. What I do care about is that Viktor Bout is going back. to work and people are going to die.
— Photo of John Wayne (@ThatOldCoyote) December 8, 2022
Watch the video below.