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‘Putin outbid Biden’ in swapping Brittney Griner for ‘Merchant of Death,’ says former Kremlin adviser


A former adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that Moscow won the prisoner swap that sent WNBA star Brittney Griner back to the United States for convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout.

“Putin outbid Biden,” wrote Sergei Markov in a lengthy post. on his Telegram channel.

Markov called Griner an “excellent athlete” and a “simple girl”, but that Bout was more important to Russia. He added that prisoner exchanges between Russia and the United States should favor Moscow.

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“But the principle of exchange with Westerners should be like this,” he wrote. “Always in our favor.”

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is escorted from the courtroom after a hearing in Khimki, outside Moscow, Russia, on August 4, 2022. On Thursday, she was released in exchange for Viktor Bout, an international convict for weapons. distributor.
(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

Griner, 32, was in Russian custody for almost 10 months before being released. She was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on February 17 after Russian authorities said she had vape cartridges laced with cannabis oil inside her luggage.

On August 4, Griner received a nine-year sentence after pleading guilty, arguing that he had been prescribed cannabis for his pain and inadvertently packed it up. Her sentence was confirmed in October and she was later transferred to a penal colony.

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Bout is known as the “merchant of death” due to his notoriety for leading a fleet of old Soviet-era cargo planes to hot spots in Africa. His dealings inspired the Nicolas Cage film “Lord of War.”

Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout is escorted by police officers as he arrives for a hearing at the Bangkok Criminal Court in 2010.

Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout is escorted by police officers as he arrives for a hearing at the Bangkok Criminal Court in 2010.
(CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP via Getty Images)

He had been in US custody since 2008 and was convicted in 2011 of conspiring to sell weapons to kill Americans. He was serving a 25-year federal prison sentence when he was released.

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“Brittney will soon be back in the arms of her loved ones and she should have been there the whole time,” President Biden said Thursday. ‚ÄúThis is a day we have worked for a long time. We never stop pushing for her to be released.”

Paul Whelan, a former US Marine charged with espionage and arrested in Russia in December 2018, stands inside the defendants' cage as he waits to hear his verdict in Moscow on June 15, 2020.

Paul Whelan, a former US Marine charged with espionage and arrested in Russia in December 2018, stands inside the defendants’ cage as he waits to hear his verdict in Moscow on June 15, 2020.
(Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

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The exchange has drawn much criticism as former Marine Paul Whelan remains in custody in Russia despite the State Department maintaining that he is being held illegally on espionage charges.

Before being convicted and imprisoned in Russia, Griner called for the National Anthem to be protested at WNBA games.

Fox News’ Ryan Gaydos contributed to this report.



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