Even Free, Brittney Griner Remains a Political Pawn

Even Free, Brittney Griner Remains a Political Pawn
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It was to relief and jubilation coast to coast when Brittney Griner landed on the morning of Dec. 9 at Kelly Field in San Antonio. As the whole world knows, this was the end of a nine-month ordeal behind bars in the increasingly draconian Russia of Vladimir Putin. Home For The Holidays In what proved to be disastrous timing, WNBA superstar and Olympic gold-medalist Griner—who had been playing for Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg—was popped at the Moscow airport with a couple of cannabis-oil vape-pens in early March—just days into Putin’s Ukraine invasion, with superpower tensions suddenly soaring.  In August, a Moscow court sentenced her to nine years despite her guilty plea. On Oct. 18, she passed her 32nd birthday in a Moscow jail, awaiting an appeal of her sentence.  The sentence was upheld by the higher court, and in mid-November, Griner was transferred to IK-2 penal colony in Mordovia region—where she voluntarily shaved off her signature long dreadlocks, because washing them in the cold was too challenging as she struggled to stay warm.  The US State Department was meanwhile assiduously working for her release—and it was all too clear that Putin was driving a hard bargain. In the end, Griner was freed in a one-for-one prisoner swap with notorious international arms dealer Viktor Bout—dubbed by the media the “Merchant of Death.” The pair even did the ritual walk-by on the tarmac as their respective planes touched down at the Abu Dhabi airport. As the plane carrying Griner landed in San Antonio, Roger Carstens, the US special presidential envoy for hostage negotiations who had accompanied her on the flight, tweeted: “So happy to have Brittney back on US soil. Welcome home BG!”  So happy to have Brittney back on U.S. soil. Welcome home BG!— U.S. Special Presidential Envoy Roger D. Carstens (@StateSPEHA) December 9, 2022https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js President Joe Biden made his own statement: “After months of being…

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