After an endless number of failed negotiations, the American Olympian has finally been freed from a Russian penal colony.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken praised the release of Brittney Griner from Russian detention and said the administration will continue efforts to bring Paul Whelan and other detainees back to the US.

“[We] will not relent in our efforts to bring Paul and all other U.S. nationals held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad home to their loved ones where they belong,” Blinken said in a statement.  

Whelan, a US citizen and former Marine — who was arrested in 2018 on espionage charges, which he has consistently and vehemently denied — is serving a 16-year prison sentence.

“I am grateful to the State Department team and to our colleagues across the government who worked tirelessly to secure her release. I especially commend Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens, who is accompanying Brittney back to the United States, as well as his entire team,” Blinken said.

“We also extend deep appreciation to our many partners who helped achieve this outcome, including our Emirati friends, who assisted in the transfer today,” he said, indicating that the prisoner swap for Griner took place in the United Arab Emirates. 

“While we celebrate Brittney’s release, Paul Whelan and his family continue to suffer needlessly,” Blinken said. “Despite our ceaseless efforts, the Russian Government has not yet been willing to bring a long overdue end to his wrongful detention. I wholeheartedly wish we could have brought Paul home today on the same plane with Brittney.”

CNN political commentator Van Jones said the release of Brittney Griner from Russian detention was the result of an extensive “grassroots movement” — led especially by Black women back in the US. 

“Today is going to be a joyful moment. For all the pain, for all the criticisms, a joyful moment for the Black women who led a movement to get one of their sisters home. This was a grassroots movement. They had to push to get male athletes, to get us to take it seriously, but they have triumphed,” Jones told CNN.

“Here is the deal, if you can bring one home, you can bring two home. So I don’t see this as bad sign for Paul Whelan. I think it is a good sign for what Americans can do when we stand together,” he added.

CNN’s Don Lemon noted the significance of the moment for the LGBTQ community, as members of the community face challenges in the US and around the world.

Jones said Griner represents “everything in this country — she’s female, she’s LGBTQ, she’s Black, and she is extraordinary. She’s excellent. She’s overcome. She’s an icon. She’s done everything you can do in her sport and more — and yet she still wasn’t safe.”

“We didn’t let it stand. Americans came together. And I think that Biden and Kamala Harris, this is one of the things I think they’ll be the most proud of,” he said.