Russian officials allegedly told America they would only trade WNBA star Brittney Griner for arms dealer Viktor “Merchant Of Death” Bout.
According to news outlets, Russian news agency TASS reported that their nation’s officials were in talks about exchanging Griner for Bout.
The 55-year-old is reportedly in the middle of serving a 25-year prison sentence after being convicted for conspiring to sell weapons to Colombia’s largest rebel group, FARC. He was nicknamed “Merchant Of Death” due to running a fleet of aging Soviet-era cargo planes to conflict-ridden areas in Africa.
Bout’s actions inspired the 2005 film Lord Of War, starring Nicolas Cage.
Meanwhile, Griner was last seen wearing an orange hoodie and handcuffs at a hearing in a Moscow court. Her detention was extended to at least June after being held in Russia for months following her arrest in February. At the time, Moscow customs officials claimed they found vape cartridges containing hashish oil in the hooper’s luggage as she was headed back to the U.S.
On May 3, the U.S. government officials announced that Griner was “wrongfully” detained and that they were working towards getting her back home safely.
Weeks later, on May 13, former U.S. intelligence officer Rebekah Koffler said President Biden was very clear about the return of American citizens who were detained overseas.
Koffler added that government officials would be required to have private conversations for a triumphant return to happen.
“Biden administration’s potential decision to exchange this heinous Russian criminal, who is serving jail time in the U.S. for being involved in killing Americans, is a huge mistake,” she said. “This move will only encourage the Russian intelligence services to grab Americans on Russian soil, so they can be exchanged for much more valuable assets for Putin.”
News outlets also said a U.S. State Department official revealed that the top U.S. diplomat told Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, that she shouldn’t hesitate to reach out if there’s any information she feels she hasn’t gotten.