Russia And The United States Exchange Prisoners Brittney Griner And Viktor Bout
Moscow and Washington have exchanged the American basketball player Brittney Griner, detained in Russia for cannabis trafficking, against the Russian national Viktor Bout, who was serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States in particular for arms trafficking.
“On December 8, 2022, at Abu Dhabi airport, an exchange took place between Russian citizen Viktor Bout and American citizen Brittney Griner, who were serving sentences in penitentiary establishments in the United States and in the United States, respectively. Russian Federation,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on December 8.
Similarly, US President Joe Biden tweeted: “Moments ago I spoke to Brittney Griner. She is safe. She is on a plane. She is on her way to home.“
Moments ago I spoke to Brittney Griner.
She is safe.
She is on a plane.
She is on her way home. pic.twitter.com/FmHgfzrcDT
— President Biden (@POTUS) December 8, 2022
The American head of state also clarified that Washington had not yet succeeded in releasing Paul Whelanun, a former American soldier considered by Moscow to be a high-ranking intelligence officer on a spy mission. His name had been mentioned in recent months about prisoner exchange negotiations between Russia and the United States.
According to Russian diplomacy, Moscow “led a process of negotiation with the United States for a long time” to obtain its national release. “Washington categorically refused any dialogue on the inclusion of the Russian in the exchange scheme; nevertheless, the Russian Federation continued to work actively to free our compatriot”, affirms the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. From the same source, Viktor Bout is back in his country of origin. During a press conference at the White House, Joe Biden affirmed that the United Arab Emirates had “helped [the United States] to facilitate the release of Brittney”, specifying that it was in this country that the basketball player had landed.
As a reminder, Moscow and Washington had been discussing a prisoner exchange involving Viktor Bout and Brittney Griner for several months. Russia has repeatedly criticized Washington for making public statements about these negotiations while they were underway.
In November, the 32-year-old professional basketball player was transferred to a penal colony in Russia to serve her nine-year sentence for drug trafficking. Last February, she had been arrested at a Moscow airport with a vaporizer containing cannabis liquid.
Viktor Bout was arrested in Thailand in 2008 and is serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States, notably for arms trafficking. He had been detained in this country for more than ten years.