Brittney Griner speaks for 1st time since release from Russian prison

Brittney Griner was freed in a swap with Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout on Dec. 8.

ByMark Osborne ABCNews logo
Friday, December 16, 2022
Brittney Griner speaks out for 1st time since leaving Russian prison
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Brittney Griner is speaking for the first time since leaving a Russian prison. Here's what she said about her plans in the WNBA.

Brittney Griner thanked her family and friends and credited her faith for surviving her time in custody on Friday in her first comments since being released from a Russian prison earlier this month.

"It feels so good to be home! The last 10 months have been a battle at every turn," Griner wrote on Instagram. "I dug deep to keep my faith and it was the love from so many of you that helped keep me going. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone for your help."

The U.S. swapped the WNBA star for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout on Dec. 8.

Griner's post on Instagram included a photo of her stepping off a plane at Fort Hood upon returning to the U.S. and a photo of her hugging her wife, Cherelle.

In this photo, Brittney Griner hugs wife Cherelle after Griner returned home to the US. The couple's reunion took place in a carefully scripted arrival on Dec. 8.

Griner was taken into custody at a Moscow-area airport in February in possession of vaping cartridges containing hashish oil, an illegal substance in Russia. She pleaded guilty in July and was sentenced to nine years in prison on Aug. 7. She appealed the sentence, but was quickly rejected in October.

The U.S. had been negotiating a prisoner swap for months. President Joe Biden finally announced on Dec. 8 that he had spoken to Griner from a plane as she flew back to the United States and shared photos of himself with Cherelle Griner and Vice President Kamala Harris in the Oval Office.

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Griner also specifically thanked Biden and urged the U.S. to continue to fight to bring imprisoned ex-Marine Paul Whelan home from Russia.

"President Biden, you brought me home and I know you are committed to bringing Paul Whelan and all Americans home too," she wrote. "I will use my platform to do whatever I can to help you. I also encourage everyone that played a part in bringing me home to continue their efforts to bring all Americans home. Every family deserves to be whole."

Griner also said she plans to play for the Phoenix Mercury when the WNBA season starts up next spring.

"I also want to make one thing very clear: I intend to play basketball for the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury this season, and in doing so, I look forward to being able to say 'thank you' to those of you who advocated, wrote, and posted for me in person soon," she wrote.

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ABC News' Deena Zaru contributed to this report.