The prisoner could be exchanged for basketball player Brittney Griner, sentenced in early August to nine years in prison in Russia for cannabis trafficking, and a former American soldier.
A Russian diplomat confirmed on Saturday that Moscow and Washington were discussing a possible prisoner exchange involving, among other things, a Russian arms trafficker detained in the United States and an American basketball player detained in Russia.
The United States has repeatedly declared that it has made a “substantial offerto secure the release of two Americans detained in Russia, basketball player Brittney Griner and former US soldier Paul Whelan. According to American media, it would be a question of exchanging them for a famous Russian arms trafficker detained in the United States, Viktor Bout, nicknamed “the merchant of death“.
The man who inspired ‘Lord of War’
Viktor Bout was arrested in Thailand in 2008 and is serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States. His extraordinary journey was one of the inspirations for the film “Lord of Warin which Nicolas Cage plays a cynical arms dealer.
“Discussions on the very sensitive subject of an exchange of (prisoners) are taking place through channels chosen by our presidentssaid the director of the North America department at the Russian Foreign Ministry, Alexander Dartchiev. The names quoted by the American pressare actually considered. Russia has been seeking the release of Viktor Bout for a long time“, he added in an interview published Saturday by the Russian news agency Tass. “The “silent diplomacy” continues and should bear fruit if, of course, Washington (…) is careful not to fall into propaganda“, he added.
This is the first time that Moscow has confirmed that discussions are taking place on a possible exchange involving Viktor Bout. The Kremlin has repeatedly criticized Washington for making public statements about the ongoing negotiations. These discussions accelerated after basketball player Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison in early August for cannabis trafficking. Considered one of the best basketball players in the world, she was arrested in February in Moscow in possession of a vaporizer containing cannabis-based liquid. His case took on a geopolitical dimension in the context of the crisis between Moscow and Washington linked to the Russian offensive in Ukraine.
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