Russia Says Inmate Swap Has Become More Likely

A day after Griner is put in a penal colony, diplomat expresses confidence about getting arms dealer back
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 18, 2022 5:15 PM CST
Russia Says Inmate Swap Has Become More Likely
Viktor Bout's wife, Alla, attends an exhibition of artworks by her husband on Tuesday in Moscow.   (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

A Russian official said Friday that the likelihood of a prisoner exchange with the US has improved, a day after his government imprisoned American athlete Brittney Griner in a penal colony. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Russia wants a trade that would have the US return arms trafficker Viktor Bout, the BBC reports, and the Biden administration has said it wants a deal to gain Griner's release. Bout is in a prison in Illinois, convicted of charges including conspiracy to kill Americans. Russia and the US have not agreed on terms yet, Ryabkov said, though he called it "undeniable that Viktor Bout is among those who are being discussed."

Russia had declined to discuss a swap for Griner before her prosecution was resolved, per the New York Times. The Russian government has been accused before of convicting foreigners with an eye toward swapping them later for Russians held elsewhere. Analysts have suggested that Russia is eager to get Bout back because of his links to Russian military intelligence, and to demonstrate that Russian intelligence officials don't forsake one of their own. The US also wants Paul Whelan, an American convicted of espionage in 2020, released. Russian state media expressed confidence Friday that the two nations will strike a deal on the prisoners, per CNN, saying "the time will come when the prospect will become a concrete agreement." (More Brittney Griner stories.)

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