Special envoy gives details on Griner’s return flight

WNBA star Brittney Griner didn’t want to spend time alone as soon as she boarded a US government plane that would take her home.

“I was in prison for 10 months, listening to the Russians. I want to talk,” Griner said, according to Roger Carstens, the presidential special envoy for hostage affairs who helped secure the basketball star’s release and return to the United States last week.

She walked around the plane, introducing herself to each member of the flight crew, shaking their hands and “establishing a personal connection with them,” Carstens recalled.

Ultimately, Griner spent about 12 hours on an 18-hour flight talking with other people on the plane, Carstens said. Two-time Olympic gold medalist and professional basketball star Phoenix Mercury has opened up about his time in the Russian penal colony and his months in captivity, Carstens recalled, though he declined to go into specific details. .

FILE – WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is escorted to court ahead of a hearing, in Khimki, just outside Moscow, Russia August 2, 2022.

“I felt like he was an intelligent, passionate, compassionate, humble, interesting person, a patriotic person,” Carstens said. “But above all, authentic. I hate that I had to meet her this way, but I truly felt blessed to have had the chance to know her.

Although Griner is undergoing a full medical and mental evaluation, Carstens said she seemed “full of energy, looked fantastic.”

Griner, who also played professional basketball in Russia, was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport in February after Russian authorities said she was carrying vape cartridges containing cannabis oil. The US State Department said Griner was “wrongfully detained” – a charge Russia has firmly denied.

Carstens spoke on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

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