Tue. Jun 6th, 2023

Former Russian arms dealer Viktor Bot and American basketball player Britney have been released in the exchange of prisoners. Saudi Arabia and the Emirates say that the release was mediated by them, but Washington has denied this

Prisoner exchange between the US and Russia
Prisoner exchange between the US and Russia


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Moscow released American basketball star and Olympic gold medalist Brittany Griner in exchange for former Russian arms dealer Viktor Bot, imprisoned in the United States. The exchange of prisoners comes at a time when tensions between the US and Russia have been on the rise since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This is the second exchange of prisoners between the two countries in the last eight months. The exchange of prisoners took place at Abu Dhabi Airport on Thursday.

US President Joe Biden announced Griner’s release in a tweet, saying, “She is safe, she is on a plane and returning home.” He also posted a photo of Griner’s husband Charlie Griner with the tweet.

US members of Congress, athletes and others have expressed joy at Griner’s release. The Russian Foreign Ministry has also confirmed this exchange of prisoners. He said in a statement that the bots have reached their homeland.

In videos released by Russian media, Griner can be seen disembarking from a Russian plane at Abu Dhabi airport and being greeted by US officials. Russian authorities, meanwhile, seem to be embracing the bot known as the ‘Merchant of Death’. A video later aired on Russian television showing Bot getting off a plane in Moscow. His mother and wife were also present on the occasion.

Saudi Arabia and the Emirates claim to arbitrate

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates say that the exchange of prisoners in Russia and the United States took place through the efforts of Emirati President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. However, the White House denied this, saying that the release was a result of negotiations between Washington and Moscow.

According to Saudi Arabia’s official news agency SPA, a joint statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia and the UAE said that the success of the mediation efforts of the two countries is mutual and solid with the United States and the Russian Federation. Reflects friendship. The statement also highlighted the important role of the leadership of the two brotherly countries in promoting dialogue between the parties. According to the statement, this exchange of prisoners took place in Abu Dhabi in the presence of “experts” from the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Denial of America

Washington has denied the mediation of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the Russia-US prisoner exchange. The press secretary of the White House, Karen Zhan, said that the release of the American basketball player Brittany Griner was only achieved through negotiations between Russia and the United States. He further said that only US and Russia were involved in the prisoner exchange talks, no mediation was involved in the prisoner exchange talks.

One Olympic Athlete Another ‘Dealer of Death’

Basketball star Brittany Griner, 32, is a two-time Olympic gold medalist. He was arrested at a Moscow airport on February 17 after his luggage was found to contain cannabis oil, which is illegal in Russia.

Britney pleaded guilty in July, but said there was no criminal intent behind it, but that the oil got stuck in her luggage during a hasty packing process. On August 4, the Russian court sentenced Brittany to nine years in prison. The Biden administration called her arrest “wrongful” and was under intense pressure to release Britney.

Viktor Bout, formerly known as the ‘Merchant of Death’, is a former Soviet Army lieutenant colonel. The US Department of Justice has previously named him as one of the world’s biggest arms dealers. He was arrested in Thailand in 2008 and extradited to the US two years later.

Victor Bout, whose life has been the subject of a Hollywood film, was serving a 25-year sentence in the United States for conspiring to sell arms worth millions of dollars. This exchange of prisoners does not include another American citizen, Paul Whalen, who has been imprisoned in Russia for four years on charges of espionage. Paul was sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2020.

Some Republican members of the U.S. Congress have criticized the prisoner exchange, citing Boot’s crimes and the non-release of Whalen.

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