Saudi Arabia and UAE take credit for helping to mediate Griner’s release

Russia Griner
WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is escorted to a courtroom for a hearing in Khimki, just outside Moscow, Russia, on Monday, June 27, 2022. Griner is to appear in court Monday for a preliminary hearing ahead of her trial. Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

Saudi Arabia and UAE take credit for helping to mediate Griner’s release

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Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates claimed credit Thursday for mediation efforts that led to the breakthrough release of WNBA star Brittney Griner.

Griner had been brought to Abu Dhabi via a private plane following her release, per a joint statement from both nations. The two countries did not elaborate heavily on the details of their purported role in negotiations and U.S. officials were tight-lipped as well.


“The success of the 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 said in a joint statement.

The White House emphasized to reporters that the “only countries that actually negotiated this deal were the United States and Russia.”

When pressed about the two oil-rich countries’ role in Griner’s release, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stressed that she didn’t “have anything else to share beyond what I just said.”

Earlier in the day, a White House official similarly declined to spill more details about Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates’s claimed mediation.

“I would say that we do engage with a wide range of countries so that the Russians hear from a wide range of sources about our commitment to resolving what a priority that again.”

Tensions between the United States and Russia have plunged to post-Cold War lows since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine back in February. Additionally, U.S. relations with Saudia Arabia have grown frosty in recent weeks following the Saudi-led OPEC+ slashing of oil production by about two million barrels a day announced in October.

In September, Saudi Arabia helped broker the release of foreign fighters captured in Ukraine. Earlier in the week, a U.S. federal court tossed out a civil lawsuit against Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman relating to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Griner’s release came from a one-to-one prisoner swap with international arms dealer Viktor Bout, sometimes referred to as the “Merchant of Death.” Biden administration officials had also sought the release of U.S. veteran Paul Whelan but revealed that the Kremlin was not amenable to that.

Jean-Pierre underscored it was “either Brittney or no one at all” and that the Biden administration “won’t stop” until Whelan is brought home.


Negotiations between Russia and the U.S. over the exchange had been ongoing for weeks. Back in the spring, both countries also agreed to swap former Marine Trevor Reed in exchange for Russian drug trafficker Konstantin Yaroshenko.

Griner was detained in Russia after authorities discovered cannabis oil vape cartridges in her luggage back in February. She was later sentenced to over nine years behind bars back in August for drug-related charges.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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