WH steered internal political 'trade-offs' for Griner-Bout exchange
The Washington Post reveals the US had to go through internal political compromises as it negotiated prisoner swap with Russia
The Washington Post reported on Saturday that the US had to make complicated internal "trade-offs" as it negotiated with Moscow the recent prisoner swap of WNBA player Brittney Griner and Russian businessman Viktor Bout.
Griner was detained when she came to Russia to play with UMMC Ekaterinburg club during the US off-season.
The US basketball star was found guilty last August by a Russian court of smuggling and storing drugs and sentenced to nine years in prison and fined one million rubles ($16,590 then).
She pleaded guilty to the charges but claimed she did not intend to break the law or use the banned substance in Russia.
Read more: WH denies Saudi Arabia, UAE mediation in Griner's release
On Thursday, a prisoner swap between American Basketball celebrity Britney Griner and Russian businessman Viktor Bout who was serving a 25-year sentence in the US over alleged arms dealings was concluded today.
The landmark swap has been categorically slammed by many as the worst trade in history, not only because Bout's charges were considered more offensive than Griner, but also because another US prisoner, former Marine Paul Whelan, was considered more worthy than Griner of being released.
The report added that officials from the Justice Department told the newspaper that they have been opposing swapping Bout for seven years prior to his release.
"If she were my relative, I would want to do the swap. But trading a notorious international arms dealer for a basketball player is madness," one of the sources said.
The sources also said that the most painful part of the exchange is the fact that the US failed to release Whelan that is sentenced to 16 years in prison in Russia for spying charges in 2020.
Moscow has refused earlier American 1-for-2 exchange propositions to swap both Whelan and Grinner for Bout, however, suggested that for such a deal to go through, Vadim Krasikov, that is accused of killing former Chechen fighter Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, should be released from German prisoners.
Berlin hinted to Washington that Krasikov's release would be "a non-starter," a US official told WaPo.