US main hostage affairs official on Sunday reflected on conducting prisoner exchange that led to Britney Griner’s release, WNBA says star immediately thanked the team that brought her back to the United States.

When she finally on to the American plane, I said, “Britney, you must be through a lot over in last 10 months. Here is your place. Please relax. Well give you are yours space”Special Representative of the President for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens told CNN’s Dana Basch on “State of Union.”

“And she said, ‘Oh no. I was in prison for I have been listening to Russian for 10 months now, I want talk. But first of all, who these guys? And she moved to the right past i went to every member on that crew looked them up in in eyes shook hands with them and asked about them and got their names by making a personal connection with them. It was really amazing,” Karstens recalled. “And then later on, on 18 hour flight, she probably spent 12 hours just we talked and we talked about everything in the world.

Carstens, who headed mission in the UAE, provided by CNN with new Griner trip details home. Griner, who he described as “intelligent, passionate, compassionate, humble, interesting person, patriotic, but above all genuine”, seemed healthy and full of energy while traveling.

She was given to understand, he said, that she would go home that day and it felt real the moment he could board another plane and tell her that “on on behalf of of the president of USA, Joe Biden and Secretary of State Tony Blinken, I’m here to take you home”.

“At this point we must go through a small more of choreography to get her on plane, it usually takes about three minutes,” Carstens said.

While he said Griner was talking about her ordeal during the trip he declined develop on details.

“It’s humiliating. I’m very grateful that President (Joe) Biden allows to me chance to make this work. it also painful work. So when you get chance shake someone’s hand one of rare moments that you get to celebrate a win,” Carstens told Bash.

“But know that even when we greet someone home we still have work do. So while I shake Britney’s hand and we go to the plane and great conversation, my brain already I think about Paul Whelan. What can we do to get it back? What next move? What is it strategy? How can we adapt?”

The messenger said he spoke with Whelan, American who remains detained in Russia the day after the exchange and confirmed the Biden administration’s readiness to deliver it home.

“I said, ‘Paul, you have an obligation of this president. The president is focused secretary of state of focus. I’m definitely focused and we’re going to bring you home. And I reminded him, I said, “Paul, when were you in marines and I was in in the army, they always reminded you to keep the faith,” and I said, “Keep the faith. We’re coming for you,” Carstens said.

He said he told Whelan that “it was a case of ever one or none.”

“We couldn’t get you out of it goes round. We couldn’t get a deal with Russians. But if we didn’t made deal, then Britney wouldn’t come home. There was no way to bring you home at this time,” he told Whelan. of negotiations leading to Griner’s release.

call between Carstens and Whelan on Friday lasted for 30 minutes USA official told CNN.

Carstens is not give additional details on talks to bring Whelan home but said that ” options are always appreciated.

“We must adapt to times,” he said. “But that’s what I would like like leave you with you know we have a permanent, open dialogue with Russians. And we have a commitment of this president and my office, of course, bring Paul Whelan home”.

EDIT: this story was updated correct spelling of Britney Griner first name in Two copies.

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