After 10 months of being detained in a Russian prison, WNBA star Brittney Griner has been released after the U.S. and Russia agreed to a 1-for-1 prisoner swap deal. 

Why Was Griner Detained?

Griner traveled to Russia to play overseas in the offseason, but she was detained after custom officials allege that they found vape cartridges that contained “oil derived from cannabis” in her luggage, according to ESPN reports

Who Did We Swap For Griner?

Griner was released from a Russian detention center in a prisoner swap for Viktor Bout, nicknamed as the “Merchant of Death,” according to CBS. Bout is a former Soviet military officer who was serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States on “charges of conspiring to kill Americans, acquire and export anti-aircraft missiles, and provide material support to a terrorist organization.” While imprisoned in the United States, Bout maintained that he was innocent. 

You can read more about Bout here

How Did We Bring Griner Home?

For months, many people have been supporting Griner via social media with the hashtag #WeAreBG, with Cherelle Griner (Brittney’s wife) playing a huge role in that.

Cherelle Griner has been working with President Biden to secure her wife’s safety for months.

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In a press briefing this morning with President Biden, he said:

“This is a day we’ve worked towards for a long time. We never stopped pushing for her release. It took painstaking and intense negotiations and I want to thank all the hard working public servants across my administration who worked tirelessly to secure her release. I also want to thank the UAE, for helping us facilitate Brittney’s return because that’s where she landed.


These past few months have been hell for Brittney and for Cherelle and her entire family and all her teammates back home. People all across the country have learned about Brittney’s story, advocated for her release, [and] stood with her throughout this terrible ordeal.”

You can see the full press briefing below. 

While this may be a joyous moment for Griner’s family, friends, and fans, many people are left wondering about the hell for Paul Whelan’s family, friends, and loved ones. 

Who Is Paul Whelan?

Paul Whelan is a retired U.S. Marine who still remains behind bars in a Russian prison. In the initial discussions to bring Brittney home, Paul Whelan was supposed to come back with her. 

But he did not, and he remains in Russia. 

Whelan has been in Russian custody for nearly four years, according to CBS News. He was convicted on espionage charges that the United States have called false. 

“We have not forgotten about Paul Whelan, who has been unjustly detained in Russia for years,” President Biden said in his press briefing this morning. 

Which begs the question…where is he, then?

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