Fight against the arms dealer
Basketball player Griner should be replaced
American basketball star Griner has been detained in Russia since February. As a trial for alleged drug trafficking draws closer, a solution is being worked on behind the scenes. An exchange with a well-known arms dealer is said to be in the works.
American basketball player Brittney Griner, detained in Russia since February, could be exchanged for arms dealer Victor Bout. This is reported by Russian state news agency TASS, citing unnamed government officials. Corresponding talks are already underway.
Bout, popularly known as the “Merchant of Death”, was arrested in Thailand in 2008 and extradited to the United States. There he was sentenced to 25 years in prison in April 2012. A New York court ruled that he intended to smuggle weapons to rebels in Colombia for use against US citizens.
Griner has been detained in Russia since February after Moscow airport officials allegedly found cannabis oil in her luggage. The 31-year-old was arrested while trying to return to the United States after a game in Russia. His pre-trial detention has just been extended for a month. She faces up to ten years in prison if convicted.
The arrest of the double Olympic champion and openly lesbian was only made public after two weeks, on March 5. Meanwhile, Russia had started its military operation in Ukraine. As a result, the United States and other Western countries imposed heavy sanctions on Moscow and launched military support for kyiv.
US officials repeatedly said she had been wrongfully detained and should be released. According to the US State Department, a consular official attended the recent hearing in the town of Khimki, just outside Moscow, and was also able to speak with Griner. She is doing “as well as can be expected in extremely difficult circumstances”. Griner’s case would now be handled by a special branch of the State Department. The Office of the President’s Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs specializes in helping to free Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad.
Similar negotiations had already resulted in an exchange in April. Trevor Reed, a US citizen and former Marine, was released from prison in Russia, where he was serving a nine-year sentence for assault. In return, the United States released Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, who had been sentenced to 20 years in prison for drug trafficking.