Russia signals willingness for Griner and ‘Merchant of Death’ prisoner swap

Russia Arms Dealer
FILE – Viktor Bout, center, is led by armed Thai police commandoes as he arrives at the criminal court in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2010. The Russian arms dealer who once inspired a Hollywood movie is back in the headlines with speculation around a return to Moscow in a prisoner exchange for U.S. WBNA star Brittney Griner and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong, File) Apichart Weerawong/AP

Russia signals willingness for Griner and ‘Merchant of Death’ prisoner swap

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Russia signaled an increased willingness to swap WNBA player Brittney Griner for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, also known as the “Merchant of Death.”

Moscow is seeing positive developments in talks regarding a prisoner swap with Bout and Griner, Russian Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Friday, the BBC reported. He added that Moscow and Washington are constantly engaged through a “specially designated channel” and that though some details need to be worked out, the possibility of a swap is becoming more likely.

‘MERCHANT OF DEATH’: WHO IS VIKTOR BOUT, THE ARMS DEALER BIDEN OFFERED RUSSIA IN PRISONER SWAP?

“Americans are demonstrating some outward activity. We are engaged professionally through a specially designated channel. We haven’t reached a common denominator yet. But it’s beyond doubt that Viktor Bout is one of those that are being discussed, and we certainly hope for a positive outcome,” Ryabkov said, responding to a question from Russian state media outlet Tass regarding the possibility of a prisoner swap.

“We wish him the tenacity and strength to overcome the ordeal that befell him as part of the U.S. prosecution,” he added.

Griner was not mentioned specifically, but an exchange of the two has been floated before.

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Bout was extradited from Thailand to the United States in a sting operation by the Drug Enforcement Administration and sentenced to 25 years for conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens and officials, delivering anti-aircraft missiles, and aiding a terrorist organization. His exploits were the inspiration for the protagonist, played by Nicolas Cage, in the 2005 movie Lord of War.

Griner, a WNBA player, was arrested the week before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine after Russian officials said they found cannabis oil in her baggage. She was found guilty in August.

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