Police in St. Petersburg, Russia

Russia and the US exchange basketball player Brittney Griner and arms dealer Viktor Bout

US officials claimed that Russia released women’s basketball star Brittney Griner in a prisoner exchange, while the US released Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

US President Joe Biden weighed in on the release, writing on his Twitter account that “Griner is safe, she’s on a plane, she’s on her way home.”

“On December 8, 2022, at Abu Dhabi airport, the procedure of exchange of Russian citizen Viktor Bout for US citizen Brittney Griner, who were serving time in US and Russian prisons, respectively, was successfully completed,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in Telegram.

Viktor Bout, who was exchanged Thursday for basketball player Brittney Griner after 14 years behind bars, first in Thailand and then in the U.S., went from being the “merchant of death” to an artist who devoted himself to drawing in the prison where he was serving 25 years in jail.

But has kept silent in recent years about his situation, while his mother, Raisa, and his wife, Alla, fought for his release by writing open letters to both Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden.

His life seems to be taken from a character in a novel and inspired the movie “The Warlord” in which Nicolas Cage plays But (Yuri Orlov), begins to be written in 1967, when he was born in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, according to Russian sources.

In the mid-1990s, reports began to appear in the media that Bout’s business dealings included illegal arms trafficking.

In 2000 he was mentioned in connection with the supply of arms to Afghanistan, the countries of the former Yugoslavia and a number of African states that circumvented Western sanctions.

Although he signed his first contracts in Afghanistan, the Russian soon spread his tentacles to Africa (Charles Taylor in Liberia was one of his main clients) and the Middle East.

Washington accused Bout, who has always denied being an arms dealer and is believed to have been living in Russia in 2002, of having violated almost all the arms sales embargoes imposed by the UN in conflict zones in Africa and Asia.

According to the US secret services, Viktor Bout headed “one of the largest private airliner networks in the world”. The Russian owned several companies and airlines: Great Lakes Business, Compagnie Arienne des Grands Lacs, Bukavu Aviation Transport and Business Air Services, among others. “My companies are engaged in the sale of Russian technology,” he once told Russian media.

The UN denounced in one of its reports that But traffics arms from factories in Ukraine, Moldova and Bulgaria, but, on occasion, has also transported mercenaries to war zones.

His chameleonic character and his experience as an FSB agent did not allow him to evade justice forever. In 2008 he was arrested in Bangkok on a US international arrest warrant.

In 2010 Viktor Bout was transferred to the US and two years later he was sentenced to 25 years in prison for conspiring to kill Americans and attempting to sell surface-to-air missiles to the now defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas, among other charges.

-Thailand News (TN)

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