Video shows WNBA star Brittney Griner on plane before release to US custody: ‘Happy’

The video was released by Russian state media after exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout

SAN ANTONIO – A video released by the Russian state media showed WNBA star Brittney Griner before she was handed over to U.S. authorities.

“Happy,” the two-time Olympic gold medalist said when someone off-camera asked about her mood. She added that she was ready for her flight.

Griner was released by Russia on Thursday in exchange for notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, and the swap took place in Abu-Dhabi, according to the Associated Press. Bout was flown home.

Upon her arrival in the U.S., Griner is expected to land at Kelly Field in San Antonio, a spokesperson confirmed to ABC News. She will be taken to Brooke Army Medical Center for a routine medical evaluation.

The video released Thursday afternoon shows Griner entering a van and then a plane on the tarmac, where she is seen smiling as she speaks with a man through an interpreter.

She is asked, “Are you ready for a flight?” She replies, “Yes, I’m ready.”

“Do you know where you’re heading to?” the interpreter asks.

When Griner replies “No,” the man says, “Your flight back home.”

“To the U.S. ... OK,” Griner says.

The interpreter then says, “Everything is going to be fine,” and Griner nods her head and smiles, the video shows.

President Joe Biden spoke about the exchange from the White House alongside Griner’s wife, Cherelle, who reportedly traveled to San Antonio for the reunion.

“She’s safe, she’s on a plane, she’s on her way home,” Biden said Thursday morning.

The deal, the second such exchange in eight months with Russia, procured the release of the most prominent American detained abroad. Griner’s monthslong imprisonment on drug charges brought unprecedented attention to the population of wrongful detainees.

Biden’s authorization to release a Russian felon once nicknamed “the Merchant of Death” underscored the escalating pressure that his administration faced to get Griner home, particularly after the recent resolution of her criminal case and her subsequent transfer to a penal colony.

The Russian state media also released a video of Bout boarding a plane in the exchange. The video showed him meeting with a group of men on the tarmac before walking onto a plane.

Watch the video below.

Griner’s arrest in February made her the most high-profile American jailed abroad.

Griner was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport when customs officials said they found vape canisters with cannabis oil in her luggage. She pleaded guilty in July, though still faced trial because admitting guilt in Russia’s judicial system does not automatically end a case.

Before being sentenced on Aug. 4 and receiving a punishment her lawyers said was out of line for the offense, an emotional Griner apologized “for my mistake that I made and the embarrassment that I brought on them.” She added: “I hope in your ruling it does not end my life.”

Griner is a six-time WNBA All-Star. She played college basketball at Baylor University before her professional career.

WATCH BELOW: Biden speaks after WNBA star Brittney Griner freed.

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About the Authors

Rebecca Salinas is an award-winning digital journalist who joined KSAT in 2019. She reports on a variety of topics for KSAT 12 News.

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