The White House has denied claims made by Saudi Arabia and the UAE on Thursday after the two nations issued a joint statement saying that they had a hand in negotiating the prisoner wap between Russia and the United States.
When pressed on MBS' involvement, White House Press Secretary said simply that the US and Russia were the only nations at the bargaining table.
"There was no mediation involved," she added, noting however that the UAE did facilitate the swap at Abu Dhabi airport.
According to Reuters, Griner and Bout arrived at the airport in Abu Dhabi around the same time, the former from Moscow and the latter from Washington, DC. There were reports that the two walked past one another on the tarmac.
Following news of the release, Saudi Arabia and the UAE issued a joint statement touting their work.
"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," they said, adding that it "highlighted the important role played by the leaderships of the two brotherly countries in promoting dialogue between all parties.
The deal was brokered in November less than forty-eight hours after the Biden administration shielded MBS from punishment in the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
President Biden addressed Griner's release in a press conference early Thursday morning.
"Moments ago, standing with her wife, Cherelle in the Oval Office, I spoke with Brittney Griner," he announced. "She’s safe, she’s on a plane, she’s on her way home after months of being unjustly detained in Russia, held under intolerable circumstances."
Biden went on to thank the members of his administration who fought for Griner's release, as well as the nations that mediated the exchange.
He made it clear that there was more work to be done when it came to releasing US citizens held in Russia, focusing on the case of US Marine veteran Paul Whelan.
"Sadly, for totally illegitimate reasons Russia is treating Paul’s case differently than Brittney’s," Biden said, "and while we have not yet succeeded in securing Paul’s release, we are not giving up. We will never give up." He noted that it "was not a choice of which American to bring home."
Whelan has been in Russian custody since 2018 after being sentenced to sixteen years in prison on espionage charges.
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