The United States and Russia exchanged prisoners: basketball player Brittney Griner was given the 'merchant of death' Viktor Bout
US Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) star Brittney Griner, who spent several months in a Russian prison on drug possession charges, has been released in exchange for international arms dealer Viktor Bout. The edition told in more detail New York Post.
The exchange comes at a time of heightened tensions over the war in Ukraine and after months of tense negotiations between the Kremlin and President Biden.
US President Joe Biden tweeted on December 8 morning: “I was talking to Britney Greener a few minutes ago. She is safe. She is on the plane. She is on her way home. She will soon be back in the arms of her loved ones."
Griner's wife, Cherell Griner, was in the Oval Office with Biden on Dec. 8, according to senior White House officials, and they spoke to her on the phone together.
Biden signed the deal, which took place in the United Arab Emirates, and agreed to release the Russian criminal once dubbed the “death merchant.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry also confirmed the exchange, telling Russian news agencies that the exchange took place in Abu Dhabi and that Bout was returning home.
Although it was originally planned that, along with Grinet, another American, Paul Whelan, who spent almost four years in a Russian prison, would be exchanged for Bout, this did not happen. He was convicted on charges of espionage, which the US deemed false.
Phoenix Mercury player Griner, 32, has been in a Russian prison since February when she was detained at Moscow Sheremetyevo airport after Russian authorities found cannabis oil e-cigarette capsules in her suitcase.
Griner, insisted that she had unintentionally packaged the cannabis oil. She was later arrested on charges of possession of drugs and sentenced to 9 years in prison.
Griner will be taken to a medical facility in San Antonio, Texas, where she will receive treatment upon her return.
Life is like a spy thriller
Viktor Bout's life looks like a contrived spy thriller. Bout, 55, who has been variously described as a "dealer of death" and "sanctions breaker" for his ability to circumvent arms embargoes, was one of the world's most wanted men until his arrest in 2008 on multiple charges related to illegal arms trafficking.
For almost two decades, Bout became the world's most famous arms dealer, selling weapons to rogue states, rebel groups and bloody warlords in Africa, Asia and South America.
Such was his notoriety that his life inspired the 2005 Hollywood film Lord of War, starring Nicolas Cage as Yuri Orlov, an arms dealer inspired by Booth.
Bout's big break came in the days following the collapse of the communist bloc in 1989-1991, when he profited from a sudden glut of abandoned Soviet-era weapons to spark a series of fratricidal civil wars in Africa, Asia and beyond.
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With the disintegration of the huge air fleet of the Soviet Union, Bout was able to acquire a squadron of about 60 old Soviet military aircraft based in the United Arab Emirates, with which he could ship his products around the world.
Bout, who first came to the attention of the CIA amid reports of a suspicious Russian citizen trading arms in Africa, was one of the most wanted people in the world at the turn of the millennium.
The end came only in 2008, after an elaborate sting operation by the US Drug Enforcement Administration, where Bout was tracked across several countries to a luxury hotel in Bangkok.
During a spectacular sting operation, Bout was caught on camera agreeing to sell 100 surface-to-air missiles to US undercover agents posing as left-wing Colombian FARC guerrillas that they used to destroy US troops. Shortly thereafter, he was arrested by the Thai police.
After more than two years of diplomatic wrangling, during which Russia loudly claimed that Bout was innocent and his case was politically motivated, Bout was extradited to the United States, where he faced numerous charges, including conspiracy to support terrorists, conspiracy for the purpose of killing Americans and laundering money.
Booth was tried on FARC-related charges, which he denied, and in 2012 a Manhattan court found him guilty and sentenced him to 25 years in prison, the minimum possible sentence.
Since then, the Russian state has sought to return it.
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