The groundbreaking prison swap that freed WNBA star Brittney Griner from a Russian gulag on Thursday was brokered by none other than the notorious Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, it was revealed Thursday.
The role of the Crown Prince, widely known as MBS, in the delicate negotiations was outlined in a joint statement by the foreign ministries of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
“The success of mediation efforts was a reflection of the mutual and solid friendship between their two countries and the United States of America and the Russian Federation,” the two countries wrote.
The exchange “also underscored the important role played by the leaders of the two brotherly countries in promoting dialogue between all parties,” the statement continued.
A White House official declined to elaborate on MBS’s role in Griner’s release, saying, “There are a number of governments and countries that during the horrific ordeal that Brittany has been going through… we have asked for it.” , to share how serious we are about resolving these issues once and for all, and I’ll skip the details on that. But I would say that we are working with a variety of countries so that Russians know about our engagement from a variety of sources, which is a priority again.”
President Biden made no mention of the Saudi role in his Thursday morning White House remarks, but did single out the UAE for their gratitude “for helping us facilitate Brittney’s return, because that’s where she ended up.”
Griner, 32, was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport on February 17 after Russian authorities found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her suitcase. She pleaded guilty to drug offenses and was later sentenced to nine years of hard labor in a Russian prison camp.
She was released in exchange for Viktor Bout, the so-called “dealer of death,” who was convicted in 2011 of conspiring to sell tens of millions of dollars worth of weapons for use against the US and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Following the respective release of Griner and Bout, the two were flown to Abu Dhabi where they were released into the care of their home countries.
The mediation by Middle East leaders comes as Biden has come under fire for his cordial relations with the Saudi crown prince, who is said to have ordered the assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
During the 2019 campaign process, Biden pledged to make Saudi Arabia “the pariah they are.” But when the president met with MBS this summer, he gave the crown prince a first nudge – a move slammed by Khashoggi’s fiancé.
Griner’s release came days after a federal judge dismissed a civil lawsuit against MBS related to the killing of Khashoggi after the Biden administration said he should be granted immunity as head of state.
“She is on her way home after months of being unjustly detained in Russia and being held in unbearable circumstances,” Biden said of the Phoenix Mercury Center.
“Brittney will soon be back in the arms of loved ones and she should have been there all along,” the president said. “This is a day we have been working towards for a long time. We have never stopped pushing for their release.”
Additional reporting by Caitlin Doornbos
https://nypost.com/2022/12/08/brittney-griners-release-brokered-by-saudi-crown-prince-uae-prez/ Brittney Griner’s release brokered by Saudi Crown Prince, Prez