Moscow surprised: One 'Merchant of Death' for two US citizens?

'Merchant of death' Viktor Bout for Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner

The Biden administration offers Russia to exchange Russian citizen Viktor Bout for two US citizens — Paul Whelan and basketball player Brittney Griner, CNN reports.

Viktor Bout was arrested in Thailand at USA's request in 2008 and then delivered to the United States. He was accused of conspiring to kill US citizens, as well as of supporting terrorism. Bout denied the allegations on all counts. In Thailand, Viktor won two extradition cases in the first instance. Later, at the stage of appeal, the decisions of the courts were overturned. While still under the jurisdiction of the Thai court, Bout was taken to the United States with gross violations of the law.

Paul Whelan was arrested in late 2018 for espionage. According to investigators, Whelan, a career intelligence officer, was collecting secret information during his trips to Russia. He also tried to recruit employees of the FSB (Russia's Federal Security Bureau) and the Ministry of Defense.

Brittney Griner was detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport in February of 2022 upon her arrival to Moscow from New York. Griner's hand luggage contained vaping devices, in which the liquid substance had a specific odour. An analysis later revealed that the liquid was hashish oil. Now the athlete faces up to ten years in prison.

Kremlin responds to Biden's offer

Russia does not yet have agreements with the United States regarding the exchange of businessman Viktor Bout for the Americans Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

"The first thing we know is that such reports and statements have actually appeared. Secondly, we also know that when discussing such topics, fake news do not transpire. It is usually a joint decision that it reported to the public," the Kremlin spokesman said.

American basketball player Brittney Griner, who was accused of drug smuggling in Russia, pleaded guilty. Her wife (Brittney Griner is a gay individual) asked Biden to seek the speedy release of the athlete.

Last week, a court in Moscow started hearing Griner's case on the merits. The athlete's lawyer said that her client had no complaints about the conditions of her detention in a Russian pre-trial detention center.

Brittney Griner, 31, is one of the most decorated basketball players in the world. She is a two-time Olympic champion and two-time world champion. She enters the list of 25 best players in women's NBA. Since 2015, she has been playing for UMMC Ekaterinburg.

Former US Marine Paul Whelan was sentenced in Russia to 16 years on charges of espionage. He holds US, UK, Canadian and Irish citizenships. Defense wants him to serve time at home. However, the Court of Appeal recognized the refusal of the Supreme Court of Mordovia to consider the convict's extradition to the United States as legitimate. The United States has repeatedly insisted on Whelan's release, but Russian diplomats reminded Washington that, unlike Russian citizens who are often detained and convicted in the United States for far-fetched reasons, Whelan was arrested for a serious crime.

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Author`s name Editorial Team
Editor Dmitry Sudakov