Entertainment Sports Brittney Griner's Lawyer Says There Were 'Positive Signs' Last Week the WNBA Star Would Be Swapped Griner’s lawyer in Russia, Maria Blagovolina, tells PEOPLE she "cried" upon hearing the news that the athlete would be released from prison By Julie Mazziotta Julie Mazziotta Twitter Julie Mazziotta is the Sports Editor at PEOPLE, covering everything from the NFL to tennis to Simone Biles and Tom Brady. She was previously an Associate Editor for the Health vertical for six years, and prior to joining PEOPLE worked at Health Magazine. When not covering professional athletes, Julie spends her time as a (very) amateur athlete, training for marathons, long bike trips and hikes. People Editorial Guidelines Published on December 9, 2022 11:01 AM Share Tweet Pin Email After months of fighting for Brittney Griner's release from Russian custody, there were "positive signs" last week that a prisoner swap was coming, the WNBA star's lawyer tells PEOPLE. President Joe Biden's negotiations with Russia were kept largely under wraps, with the White House waiting to announce that Griner, 32, would be coming home in a prisoner swap with Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who had been serving 25 years in a U.S. prison, early Thursday morning once she was already on the plane. Griner had spent the last month in a harsh Russian penal colony in Mordovia where she was set to serve out her nine-year prison sentence for drug smuggling, unaware if the prisoner swap — which had first come up as a possibility in late July — would happen. Griner's lawyer in Russia, Maria Blagovolina, a partner at Rybalkin Gortsunyan Dyakin and Partners, tells PEOPLE she last saw the Phoenix Mercury star in person three weeks ago, soon after she arrived in Mordovia. More recently, they spoke over the phone, along with her co-council Alexander Boykov, from the Moscow Legal Center. Brittney Griner Says She is 'Good' and 'Happy' in Footage of Her Release from Russian Prison (L-R) Maria Blagovolina, Brittney Griner and Alexander Boykov. EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA/POOL/AFP via Getty "She was very stressed after the transfer to Mordovia and was trying to adjust to new surroundings," Blagovolina says. But, she adds, "Brittney was doing great" in the penal colony. "She is a fighter. It was extremely challenging for her, but she did really great," Blagovolina says. Brittney Griner Flying Straight to San Antonio for Medical Care, Will Reunite with Wife and Family During that call, Griner said she had "good signs" that the prisoner swap would happen, and Blagovolina started to hear the same. "There were positive signs since last week and we felt that the momentum is near," she says. Blagovolina got confirmation that Griner was in the process of coming home with everyone else on Thursday morning, and was immediately emotional. "To be honest with you, I cried," she says. A Timeline of Brittney Griner's Detainment in Russia Brittney Griner. She hasn't yet been able to speak with Griner, who landed in San Antonio early Friday morning and will undergo routine medical evaluations to check on her health, but Blagovolina says she and Boykov "really hope" to stay in touch with the athlete now that she's back home safe. "It has been a privilege to represent BG and we are very happy that she will spend the Christmas at home!" Blagovolina says.