August 11, 2022

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Will there be a prisoner exchange between Russia and the United States?

According to numerous analyzes and rumors published by American newspapers, it is alleged that Russia is trying to organize a prisoner exchange between American basketball player Brittney Grenier, who was arrested in Russia in February for carrying some cartridges for a vaporizer of cannabis oil, and Victor. Known for being one of the biggest arms smugglers in recent decades, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison for selling massive amounts of weapons to terrorists and war criminals.

The possibility of the exchange was initially raised by the Russian media, which mentioned how the government has been trying for years to return Bout to Russia, who in 2010 was sentenced to 25 years in prison in the United States. State News Agency tax Even claimed, citing anonymous sources, that the exchange negotiations It will already be in progress between the US and Russian authorities. However, the United States has not confirmed.

The possibility of an exchange is considered plausible, at least as a hypothesis, even by some American newspapers, including The The New York Times. The newspaper interviewed Steve Zissou, Bout’s US attorney, among others, who said that “in my opinion, no American will go home unless Victor Bout is also sent home.”

Britney Greiner is 31 years old and has won two Olympic golds and a WNBA title, the most important women’s professional basketball league in the United States. She was arrested in February during a search at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport from the United States on suspicion of drug smuggling. At the time of her imprisonment she was in Russia playing basketball with Yekaterinburg, a team from the city of the same name in the Urals: it is common for American players to move abroad during the remaining months of the American championship.

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Victor Bout is considered one of the biggest arms smugglers of recent decades: he has been accused of amassing a fleet of planes trafficking arms under the guise of transporting food and drugs to conflict zones. Among the wars he allegedly armed, in the 1990s and early 2000s, were those in Angola, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He was going to provide weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Taliban in Afghanistan, and there are traces of him also in Libya, Muammar Gaddafi. In 2008, British Labor politician Peter Hein Bot was described as “Africa’s leading death dealer”.

Victor Bout in 2008 (Chumsak Kanoknan / Getty Images)

Bot was arrested in Thailand in 2008 after agreeing to sell weapons to US agents posing as fighters for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) terrorist group during an operation to capture him. The agents had specified that the weapons would be used against US citizens. In 2010, Bout was extradited to the United States, despite numerous protests from Russia, and within three weeks he was tried in New York and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

At the time of his arrest in 2008, Bout was very popular all over the world: the 2005 movie War Lordwith Nicolas Cage, inspired by his life.

Russia has long protested the extradition and sentencing of Bout, a former Soviet Army officer. The Russian government has always considered this unfair, and according to various analyzes after the arrest of Grenier, it may take the opportunity to return the smuggler to the country.

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The US administration of Joe Biden is in a rather embarrassing situation: in the United States, the campaign to free Greiner is very strong, but accepting such an exchange could turn into an incentive for authoritarian governments to unfairly detain American citizens and gain something in return. .

In April, Biden agreed to a prisoner exchange between Marines Trevor Reed, convicted in Russia for assaulting two police officers, and Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, convicted in the United States for drug smuggling. However, the US administration referred to the exchange as an exceptional event, justified above all by Yaroshenko’s poor health.