Cherelle Griner suffered through more than 9 months of heartbreak and confusion, and on Thursday, she expressed her delight with the news of her wife, Brittney Griner, coming back to the U.S.
“Over the last 9 months you have been so privy to one of the darkest moments of my life and so today I’m just standing here overwhelmed with emotions but the most important emotion that I have right now is just sincere gratitude for President Biden and his entire administration,” Cherelle Griner said with President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris by her side.
“[Biden] just mentioned this work is not easy. There’s been so many hands involved.”
Griner thanked several members of the Biden administration, the Phoenix Mercury, the WNBPA and Brittney’s agency for doing all they could to keep the WNBA superstar in the spotlight after she was detained, sentenced and then transferred to a Russian penal colony in the final moments of her detention.
“Today, my family is whole. But as you all are aware,” Cherelle Griner added. “There are so many other families who are not whole. BG’s not here to say this, but I will gladly speak on her behalf and say that BG and I will remain committed to the work on getting every American home, including Paul (Whelan) whose family is in our hearts today as we celebrate BG being home. We do understand that there’s still people out here who are enduring what I endured the last 9 months of missing, tremendously, their loved ones.”
Griner was freed from a Russian penal colony on Thursday in a prisoner exchange for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, a U.S. official confirmed to Fox News.
U.S. and Russian officials have expressed optimism in recent weeks about a potential deal for Griner. A top Russian official said last week that a deal was possible before year’s end.
Griner was arrested at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow on Feb. 17 after Russian authorities said she had vape cartridges with cannabis oil inside her luggage. On Aug. 4, Griner was given a nine-year sentence after pleading guilty, arguing that she had been prescribed cannabis for her pain and inadvertently packed it. Her sentence was upheld in October, and she was later transferred to a penal colony.
Bout is known as the “Merchant of Death” and the possible swap for him was floated back in May. He was in the middle of a 25-year sentence in federal prison after he was convicted of conspiracy to kill Americans relating to the support of a Colombian terrorist organization.
Paul Whelan, another American imprisoned in Russia, was not a part of the swap. He has been jailed on espionage charges that his family and the U.S. government have said are baseless.
Fox News’ Nick Kalman contributed to this report.