Handout photo of US basketball player Brittney Griner sits inside a defendants' cage before the court's verdict at Khimki City court outside Moscow, Russia, 04 August 2022. EFE/EPA/EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA - POOL

Russia releases Griner for arms dealer Bout in prisoner swap

Moscow, Dec 8 (EFE).- The United States and Russia have exchanged imprisoned US basketball star Brittney Griner for Russian arms dealer Victor Bout, the Russian Defense Ministry said Thursday.

U.S. basketball player Brittney Griner stands inside a defendants’ cage during a court hearing in Khimki outside Moscow, Russia , 04 August 2022. EFE/EPA/EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA – REUTERS POOL

Griner was jailed in August on a nine year sentence for drug possession and smuggling after cannabis oil had been found in her luggage, while But, known as the “merchant of death”, had served 12 years of a 25-year sentence in the US for weapons trafficking.

He was arrested in 2008 in the Thai capital Bangkok, and was extradited to the US two years later.

The Russian defense ministry said in a statement that it “had long been” negotiating for Bout’s release.

Joe Biden said Griner is safe and heading to the US

US president Joe Biden said on Twitter that he had spoken to Griner on Thursday and that she was safe and was heading to the US.

“This is a day we have been working toward for a long time,” Biden told a press conference on Thursday alongside Secretary of State Antony Blinken and vice president Kamala Harris. “She is in good spirits, and is glad to be heading home.”

He also thanked the United Arab Emirates for facilitating her return from Russia, where she had been “wrongfully detained.”

Washington had proposed the prisoner exchange to Moscow ahead of Griner’s sentencing in August. EFE