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American basketball player Brittney Griner soon to be released? Moscow confirms prisoner swap talks

The director of the North America department at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Alexandre Dartchiev, confirmed on Saturday that Moscow and Washington were discussing a possible exchange of prisoners involving in particular the American sportswoman Brittney Griner.

The United States has repeatedly declared that it has made a “substantial offer” to obtain the release of two of its nationals, the international basketball player arrested last February and a former 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”. Mr. Bout was arrested in Thailand in 2008 and is serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States. His extraordinary career was one of the inspirations for the film “Lord of War” in which Nicolas Cage plays a cynical arms dealer.

“The silent diplomacy continues and should bear fruit”

“Discussions on the very sensitive subject of an exchange of (prisoners) are taking place through channels chosen by our presidents,” said the director of the North America department at the Russian Foreign Ministry, Alexander Dartchiev.

Viktor Bout during a court hearing in Bangkok on October 5, 2010.

The names quoted by the American press “are indeed 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 Mr. Bout. The Kremlin has repeatedly criticized Washington for making public statements about the ongoing negotiations. These discussions accelerated after basketball player Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison in early August for cannabis trafficking.

Brittney Griner, considered one of the best basketball players in the world, was arrested in February in Moscow in possession of a vaporizer containing cannabis-based liquid. She says she brought this substance inadvertently. His case took on geopolitical significance in the context of the crisis between Moscow and Washington linked to the Russian offensive in Ukraine.

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