Brittney Griner case: Two for two: What prisoners Russia and the US could swap

According to Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Russia is ready to discuss with Washington a prisoner exchange for US basketball player Brittney Griner, who was convicted on Thursday.

Brittney Griner case: Two for two: What prisoners Russia and the US could swap

According to Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Russia is ready to discuss with Washington a prisoner exchange for US basketball player Brittney Griner, who was convicted on Thursday. Moscow is "ready to talk about the issue," Lavrov said at a press conference during a visit to Cambodia. For the talks, however, a direct communication channel between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden, which had been agreed between the two, must be maintained.

There is "a special channel" between the heads of state, Lavrov said. "Despite certain public statements" this continues to exist.

A Russian court sentenced US basketball star Griner to nine years in prison for drug trafficking on Thursday - a harsh sentence that makes an exchange between Moscow and Washington appear possible. US media are already naming detainees that Russia and the US could exchange.

The former US Marine was arrested in Russia in December 2018. According to the Russian domestic secret service FSB, he was caught red-handed as a spy. He is said to have received secret data on a USB stick. He himself rejects the Russian espionage allegations. Nevertheless, he was sentenced to 16 years in a penal colony by a court in Moscow in June 2020.

Viktor Anatolyevich Bout bears the martial nickname "Dealer of Death". The arms dealer was arrested in Thailand in 2008 and was sentenced to at least 25 years in prison in the United States after his extradition in 2012.

Bout rose to become a successful entrepreneur in the 1990s. His approximately 50 planes officially transported flowers and household goods, but unofficially also weapons around the world. He is said not even to have shied away from terrorist organizations as customers: Al Qaeda, the Taliban and the Colombian FARC are said to have been supplied by him. Nevertheless, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has repeatedly described the man convicted of arms smuggling as an "honest businessman" - and thus whitewashed him for the Russian public.

According to US information, Moscow is demanding, among other things, the release of the Russian Vadim K, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in Germany for the Berlin Tiergarten murder shot in the park in the middle of the capital. The judges also recognized a particular degree of guilt, which makes an early release very difficult. One problem is that K. is not in a US prison. In order for him to be released, the federal government and the German judiciary would also have to be convinced of this deal.

Last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Lavrov on the phone for the first time since the Russian offensive in Ukraine began. As a result of the call, Blinken said he had put pressure on his Russian counterpart to accept Washington's "serious proposal" for the release of Griner and US citizen Paul Whelan, who has been sentenced to 16 years for espionage.

Other sources: AFP, "Spiegel Online" on Paul Whelan, "tagesschau.de" on Viktor Bout.

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