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Brittney Griner - Viktor Bout Prisoner Exchange between U.S. and Russia

Fernando Jeronimo | Advertising Manager

On December 8th, 2022, The United States and Russia exchanged prisoners. The U.S. was able to get the WNBA star Brittney Griner back after 294 days in Russian detention. Griner was sentenced on August 4th by Russian officials to 9 years in prison for drug possession. Griner has been imprisoned since her arrest back on February 17th. She has been known for being a two-time gold medalist with Team USA at FIBA Women’s Basketball World Championships in 2014, and 2018 and was also named MVP of the gold medal in 2018. On top of that she was named to the “All-Star Five” in 2014.

For Russia, they were able to get Viktor Bout from the United States. Bout was known asthe “Merchant of Death” after being held in U.S. prison for 12 years serving his 25 year prisonsentence. Bout was considered by the U.S. Justice department as one of the world’s mostprolific arms dealers. He was sentenced for selling tens of millions of dollars in weapons thatwere to be used against Americans. Bout was a former Soviet military officer before gettingcaptured by the U.S. and was known for killing americans, acquiring and exporting anti-aircraftmissiles and supporting terrorist organization.

The biggest question is what has happened with Paul Whelan? Whelan was detained in the Moscow hotel back in December 2018 after allegedly being involved in an intelligence operation. President Biden mentioned that this prisoner exchange had been in the works formonths but Whelan’s situation is thought to be bigger for Russia than Griner and would notallow a two for one swap. President Biden wanted to swap Whelan and Griner for Bout butRussia would not agree to it and the conclusion came to Griner for Bout. Whelan expressed his thoughts about this whole situation, “I am greatly disappointed that more has not been done to secure my release, especially as the four year anniversary of my arrest is coming up. I was arrested for a crime that never occurred. I don't understand why I'm still sitting here.”


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