Brittney Griner is homeward bound

Brittney Griner is coming home from Russia following a prisoner exchange with arms dealer Viktor Bout.

Griner flew in a private jet from Russia to Abu Dhabi, the capital and second-most populous city in the Emirates, after Russian authorities released her. 

President Joe Biden tweeted Thursday morning: “I spoke to Brittney Griner. She is safe. She is on a plane. She is on her way home.” 

President Biden predicted that she will back in the United States in 24 hours.

Griner, who had been detained in Russia for 294 days, was serving a nine-year sentence and had recently been relocated to a penal colony in Mordovia, about 210 miles east of Moscow.

Griner, a 6’9” center for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, was detained at Sheremetyevo International Airport in Khimki as she returned to Russia to play during the WNBA’s off-season. 

She is accused of having vape cartridges containing hashish oil, which is illegal in the country.

The release did not include Paul Whelan, a U.S. citizen, and a former Marine, who was arrested in 2018, President Biden said.

Whelan has been arrested on espionage charges and is serving a 16-year sentence.

Whelan spoke by phone to CNN from the Russian penal colony where he is being held, and said he was “greatly disappointed that more has not been done to secure my release, especially as the four-year anniversary of my arrest is coming up.”