Phoenix Mercury forward Brittney Griner is one step closer to coming home.
The prospects of a Russian-US prisoner swap were expected to strengthen, according to a Friday report from Interfax. Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, considered the “world’s most wanted man” prior to his arrest in 2008, is on the list of potential prisoners who could be traded for Griner’s release.
“The Americans are demonstrating certain foreign activity, and we are doing professional work through the designated channel,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Friday. “We have yet to arrive at a common denominator, but there is no doubt that Viktor Bout is among those discussed, and we are definitely counting on a positive outcome.”
Brittney Griner, the seven-time All Star and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 WNBA draft, was detained in Russian customs last February for packing vape cartridges containing less than a gram of hashish oil, or a more concentrated form of marijuana, before she was set to play in the Russian Premier League during the WNBA’s offseason. She was sentenced to nine years in a penal colony following her arrest. Griner was moved from a detention center to an undisclosed location in early November.
Griner’s situation took a turn for the worse when she was taken to a penal colony in Russia’s Mordovia region last Thursday, the same region former United States marine Paul Whelan is serving a 16-year sentence for alleged espionage charges, according to Reuters.
The 6-foot-9-inch center played for the now-undefeated UMMC Ekaterinburg since 2014, winning three straight national championship trophies with Mercury guard Diana Taurasi. This year’s roster featured a pair of Chicago Sky All Stars in forward Emma Meesseman and guard Courtney Vandersloot, a four-time WNBA 3-point champion in Sky guard Allie Quigley, a near-WNBA Champion in Connecticut Sun forward Jonquel Jones and a two-time WNBA Champion in Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart, among others.