Russia and the US exchange basketball player Brittney Griner for arms dealer Viktor Bout

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Russia and US exchange basketball player Brittney Griner for arms dealer Viktor Bout

Foreign Ministry < strong>Russia announced this Thursday a prisoner exchange between American basketball player Brittney Griner, imprisoned in Russia for possession and smuggling of illegal drugs, and Russian citizen Viktor Bout, an arms dealer nicknamed 'the merchant of death'He was serving a sentence in the United States.

The exchange took place this Thursday at the Abu Dhabi airport in the United Arab Emirates, according to Russian news agencies such as Tass. A US official later confirmed this. The American basketball player is already in custody on US territory.

Griner was detained on February 17 at the Moscow airport in Moscow. for carrying several Cannabis oil cartridges in his luggage, something illegal in the Eurasian country. Also known as “BG” to basketball fans, she is a two-time Olympic champion and seven-time All Star player in the US Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA). arrived to Russia to play for UMMC Yekaterinburg in 2014 along with other American players such as Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Candace Parker.

For his part, Viktor Bout was convicted in 2011, charged with wanting to murder American citizens and police officers and assist a terrorist organization, and was sentenced to < strong>25 years in prison.

The player's detention came a week before Russia brought relations with the West to their lowest level in decades by starting its >offensive on Ukraine. US officials and athletes said Griner had been mistakenly arrested and convicted, saying she was being used as a political pawn.

“Hell”

” We have worked hard for this day to come,” US President Joe Biden said Thursday. He stressed that captivity “has been hell ” for BG and her family, and that the player has experienced a “trauma” although “she will soon be back.” He is now in the arms of his loved ones, where he should have been before.” He has also noted that the release of Marine Paul Whelan remains “a priority.” This soldier he has been imprisoned in Russia since 2020 on charges of espionage.

“After almost 10 long months, Brittney Griner suffered a terrible death. unthinkable traumas when she was unjustly imprisoned by the Russian government,” said the speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi. “Putin's cruelty to Brittney and his “Monstrous actions against Ukraine are reminders of contempt for human rights, human dignity and the rule of law,” he added.

At the end of October, the player tried to appeal the sentence by admitting guilt. but he claimed lack of malicious intent.At that time, he assured that he was going through a “very stressful and very traumatic” moment.