Griner was released in exchange for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, known as the ‘Merchant of Death’
Associated Press WASHINGTON (AP) – Russia has freed WNBA star Brittney Griner in a dramatic high-level prisoner exchange, with the U.S. releasing notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
The swap was confirmed by U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the negotiations who weren’t authorized to publicly discuss the deal before a White House announcement and spoke on condition of anonymity. It comes at a time of heightened tensions over Ukraine and it achieves a top goal for President Joe Biden.
It also comes with a heavy price and leaves behind an American who’s been jailed for nearly four years in Russia. Griner is a two-time Olympic gold medalist who’s been imprisoned for months on drug charges.
Griner was sentenced to 9 years in prison for trying to smuggle less than 1 gram of cannabis oil in her luggage.
Back in August the US had offered Bout for Griner and Paul Whelan, a Canadian-born former United States Marine with U.S., British, and Irish citizenship. He was arrested in Russia on December 28, 2018, and accused of spying.
Bout, known as the ‘Merchant of Death’ for conspiring to kill US troops. Bout he used his multiple air transport companies to smuggle weapons since the collapse of the Soviet Union from Eastern Europe to Africa and the Middle East during the 1990s and early 2000s
From the White House this morning President Biden announced the release of Griner and stated that negotiations continue to secure Whelan’s release. According to Biden, “Russians are handling Whelan’s situation differently.”
(Copyright 2022 WBAP/KLIF 24/7 News. This report contains material from The Associated Press.)