The exchange includes American basketball player Brittney Griner and Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, also known as "the merchant of death".
Russia ready to swap American basketball star for notorious arms dealer
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said yesterday that he is hopeful that the prospect of an exchange with America for their respective prisoners had strengthened.
The United States has previously said that it was eager to organise a prisoner swap to release its basketball player. Griner was convicted of illegal drug possession in August this year. She was found with cannabis oil vapes in her bags as she entered Russia. She has since been given a nine-years-sentence in a IK-2 women’s penal colony in Yavas in Mordovia, 500km south-east of Moscow, as revealed by her lawyers.
New developments indicate that Russia is ready to hand her to the US for one of their own.
Yesterday, Ryabkov said that a "common denominator" is yet to be reached between the two governments, but that Viktor Bout is "among those who are being discussed [for exchange] and we certainly count on a positive result."
Bout is a former Soviet Air Force officer. He was extracted from Thailand to America in 2010 after an operation by the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). He was sentenced to 25 years in prison after he found guilty of conspiracy to kill Amricans and US officials, delivering anti-craft missiles and supporting a terrorist organisation.
Ryabkov wished him the “firmness of will and spirit” to deal with his incarceration.
Bout's notorious arms trafficking exploits inspired a Hollywood film which birthed the nickname "the merchant of death".
Among the prisoners included in the potential exchange is American detainee Paul Whelan. A former US marine, he was convicted as an American spy and has been serving time in a Russian labour camp.
The former US marine, convicted as an American spy, has been serving time in a Russian labour camp.
This is the first time the US or Russian officials have publicly said that Bout could be part of an exchange.
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