Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Russia frees American basketballer Griner in exchange for arms dealer Victor Bout

Ms Griner, who was arrested in Moscow and given a nine-year prison sentence, was exchanged for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer.

• December 8, 2022
A composite of American basketball player Brittney Griner and Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer
A composite of American basketball player Brittney Griner and Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer

American basketball player Brittney Griner has been freed in a prisoner exchange between the United States and the Russian Federation.

Ms Griner, who was arrested in Moscow in February for possessing cannabis oil and was given a nine-year prison sentence, was exchanged for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer. 

Popularly known as the ‘Merchant of Death’ Mr Bout was detained in 2008 on terrorism-related charges and found guilty in 2011 of conspiring to kill U.S. citizens and government officials, delivering anti-ship missiles, and providing support to a terrorist organisations.

Although the exchange was supposed to include another American, Paul Whelan who was arrested in 2018 on the alleged charge of spying, the U.S. Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, said that the Russian government was unwilling to consider his release. 

“Despite our ceaseless efforts, the Russian government has not yet been willing to bring a long overdue end to his wrongful detention.”

U.S. President Joe Biden announced the exchange on Thursday confirming that he has spoken with Ms Griner and she is on her way back to the United States. 

“Brittney will soon be back in the arms of her loved ones — and she should have been there all along,” he said.

Cherelle Griner, wife of Ms Griner who was in the White House when president Biden made the announcement, said that her family is now whole, she explained that the months since her partner’s arrest have been the darkest moments for her.

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