Video has emerged of the prisoner exchange between WNBA star Brittney Griner and Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, and while the footage is fuzzy (and cuts off early), it’s an eerie glimpse of the process of seeing Griner finally return to the United States after months of horror inside a Russian penal colony. You can watch it above.
If you are new to the story, Griner is a 32-year-old basketball player with the WNBA (she plays on the Phoenix Mercury) and as a two-time Olympic Gold medal winner is largely considered one of the league’s top athletes.
In February she was detained by Russian customs after vape cartridges containing THC oil were found in her luggage. Griner was in the country to play in the Russian Premier League during her WBNA offseason. By July, she pled guilty to the charges of smuggling and in August was sentenced to nine years in prison and fined 1 million rubles. In November, she was transferred to the Russian penal colony IK-2, a notoriously difficult and dangerous prison 300 miles outside Moscow. This transfer ramped up the intensity of her attempted release, as it was theorized that she would become critically ill or potentially die at the prison.
Finally, her release was secured as part of a prisoner exchange for Bout, a Russian arms dealer who had served 10 years out of a 25-year-sentence for providing weapons to terrorists with intent to harm the United States.
While the video is hard to make out, it is worth noting that Griner has had her hair cut (she is known for her long, braided hairstyle); it’s unclear if this is part of the Russian prison system’s unified look and has been there since she was sentenced or if it happened more recently. Until her transfer, she had been held in an undisclosed location.