It’s been almost three months since the arrest of Brittney Griner in a Russian airport, where she was busted for carrying vape products which contained cannabis oil. Since then, the U.S. has been working to get her back home, and they may finally have a better idea of what it’s going to take.
According to multiple reports from Russian state media, the Kremlin could be interested in releasing Griner in exchange for the USA’s release of convicted arms trafficker Victor Bout.
While one Russian state media report quoted an unnamed source who described a potential Griner-for-Bout exchange as “likely,” experts in Russian diplomacy viewed that skeptically. William Pomeranz, a professor of Russian law and the acting director of the Kennan Institute, told Yahoo Sports that he interprets the reports as a signal that “Russia really wants to make that trade” but cautioned that they give no indication of the U.S.’s willingness.
“This is Russia saying, ‘Wouldn’t this be a great idea?’” Pomeranz said. “This isn’t the U.S. saying they’re interested. We’ve had other opportunities to get rid of Viktor Bout in the past and we haven’t done it.”
Based on the report, it appears as though Russia would be interested in making such a swap, but America’s history of prisoner trade requests involving Bout don’t make it seem likely that they’ll agree to such a deal.
Bout’s sketchy history likely explains why the U.S. isn’t willing to give him up so easily. He earned the nickname “The Merchant of Death” after providing weapons for wars in Africa and the Middle East. He was arrested during a sting in Thailand back in 2008. After being extradited to America, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison for “conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens, delivery of anti-aircraft missiles and providing aid to a terrorist organization.”
As for Griner, she appeared in a Russian court earlier today, where her detention was extended another 30 days.
Sadly, it doesn’t appear as though this saga will end anytime soon.