A video released Thursday showed the tarmac exchange between WNBA superstar and Olympic champion Brittney Griner and convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
Russian state media showed Griner and Bout boarding their respective planes to return to their home countries. The footage of the tarmac exchange was presumably shot in the United Arab Emirates, according to state TV.
The video was released hours after the official announcement of the swap was made.
Before getting to the exchange, Griner is asked what her mood was and whether she knows where she was flying to. She says she was “happy” and didn’t know where she was going at first but was told the U.S.
The clips showed her leaving snowy Russia.
A video later showed the plane carrying Griner landing in Texas.
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.
He was dubbed the “Merchant of Death” because of his notoriety for running a fleet of aging Soviet-era cargo planes to conflict-ridden hotspots in Africa. His dealings inspired the Nicolas Cage film “Lord of War.”
Biden addressed reporters after the announcement of her release. He didn’t mention Bout.
“After months of being unjustly detained in Russia, held under intolerable circumstances, Brittney will soon be back in the arms of her loved ones and she should have been there all along,” Biden said.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken released a statement.
“I am grateful to the State Department team and to our colleagues across the government who worked tirelessly to secure her release,” the statement read. “I especially commend Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens, who is accompanying Brittney back to the United States, as well as his entire team. We also extend deep appreciation to our many partners who helped achieve this outcome, including our Emirati friends, who assisted in the transfer today.
“While we celebrate Brittney’s release, Paul Whelan and his family continue to suffer needlessly. Despite our ceaseless efforts, the Russian Government has not yet been willing to bring a long overdue end to his wrongful detention. I wholeheartedly wish we could have brought Paul home today on the same plane with Brittney. Nevertheless, we will not relent in our efforts to bring Paul and all other U.S. nationals held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad home to their loved ones where they belong.”