WBNA star Brittney Griner “looked great” and “seemed to be doing fine” on her flight home to the United States after being held in a Russian prison for 10 agonizing months, according to a US hostage affairs official on Sunday. However, she was not interested in alone time, eagerly chatting with everyone aboard.
Roger Carstens, Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs, recalled the touching moment he met Griner on the tarmac in the United Arab Emirates to take her back to the United States.
“I introduced myself to Britney as Ambassador Roger Carstens. I work for the Department of State. And on behalf of Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Tony Blinkem, I am here to escort you home,'” the envoy said on CNN’s “State of the Union” to anchor Dana Bashon.
“At that time, I believe everyone recognizes that it’s going to happen; Brittney was no exception.”
Thursday, Griner, 32, was exchanged for international arms dealer Viktor Bout in a prisoner swap after being arrested at the Moscow airport with cannabis oil.
The center of the Phoenix Mercury was transferred to a prison colony in Mordovia, Russia, while the United States negotiated her release with the enemy nation.
Brittney Griner “looked wonderful” on her journey back to the United States after 10 months in a Russian prison.
via the Russian Federal Security Service
Carstens believed that after her ordeal, Griner would want to spend the long flight home in profound reflection, but Griner had other plans.
“When she finally boarded the plane to the United States, I told her, ‘Brittney, you’ve gone through a lot in the past 10 months. Here is your seat, feel free to relax, and we will offer you your space.
“She responded, ‘Oh no. I’ve spent the past ten months in prison listening to Russian. I wish to speak. But first, who are these individuals?'”
It is one of those rare opportunities to celebrate a victory.
Roger Carstens, the US Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, discusses his encounter with Brittney Griner following her release from a Russian prison. @CNNSotu #CNNSOTU photo from Twitter: akGGmhtuSG
Carstens recounted, “She moved by me and went to every crew member, looked them in the eyes, shook their hands, asked about them, and learned their names, establishing a personal relationship with them.”
“She looks fantastic. She was full of vitality and looked wonderful. She is currently receiving medical assessments at Port Sam Houston, but she appears to be in good health,” he stated.
Griner has not yet addressed the resolution or her incarceration in a public forum.
Carstens stated that as soon as the jet took off, he began to consider how the United States could retrieve Paul Whelan, a former Marine who was accused of spying by the Russians in 2018.
Brittney Griner deplanes at San Antonio’s Kelly Field upon her release.
Four years after his imprisonment, Whelan, 52, told the network last week that he was “very upset that more has not been done.”
“I was arrested for a nonexistent offense,” Whelan told CNN from his prison colony. “I do not comprehend why I am still seated here.”
Carstens kept quiet about the rescue plan for Whelan, arguing he had to keep his negotiating cards close to his chest.
“I spoke with him on Friday, the day after the swap, and this is what I told him: ‘Paul, you have the commitment of this president; the president is focused, the secretary of state is focused, and I am surely focused, and we will get you home,'” Carstens said.