Russia and the United States are reportedly in talks to trade the imprisoned US basketball player Britney Griner for Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, known as the “Merchant of Death”.
Bout is serving time in a US prison, after having been sentenced to 25 years in jail in New York back in April 2012.
“Currently, talks are underway on exchanging Bout for Griner,” a source in the Russian Public Monitoring Commission told TASS on Friday.
Griner, who plies her trade for UGMK Yekaterinburg, was detained on 17 February at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport after customs officials found cannabis oil in her luggage.
The basketball player was subsequently arrested for drug smuggling and remains in custody. She could be sentenced to up to 10 years in jail, as it is against the law in Russia to enter the country with cannabis.
UGMK, coached by Spain’s Miguel Mendez, Spain’s head coach since 2021, has not made any public statement on the matter.
Griner‘s pre-trial detention expires on 19 May, although the local press is assuming that this precautionary measure will be extended.
Former US ambassador to the UN Bill Richardson is negotiating the release of 31-year-old Griner, a two-time world and Olympic champion with her country.
Meanwhile, Bout is serving 25 years in jail for, among other things, conspiring to kill US citizens and selling weapons to Colombia’s terrorist organisation, FARC.
Recently, Russia and the US traded American student Trevor Reed, sentenced to nine years in jail for resisting arrest, for Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, sentenced to 20 years in jail in the US for drug smuggling.