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US proposes prisoner swap with Russia for detained female basketball player

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The United States has proposed a prisoner swap with Russia which will see the US exchanging convicted Russian arms trafficker, Viktor Bout, for American basketball star, Brittney Griner and accused spy Paul Whelan.

The US made what it referred to as a
“substantial proposal” on Wednesday to Russia, which will see Griner who is facing up to 10 years in prison if convicted of transporting drugs, and Whelan, a former US Marine, who has been imprisoned in Russia for alleged espionage since 2018, returned to the US while Bout, will head back to Moscow.

Russia has, for years, sought the release of Bout who is often referred to as the “Merchant of Death” after he was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2012 following his conviction in a scheme to illegally sell weapons worth millions of dollars to terrorists.

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Griner was arrested on arrival in Russia in February with vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage. She was to later testify in court that a language interpreter provided to her translated only a fraction of what was being said as authorities arrested her.

Griner said she was instructed by officials to sign documents at the Moscow airport without them providing an explanation for what she was acknowledging.

Though US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, would not openly discuss the proposal, it is understood the two countries have been in discussion since June on the modalities on the deal, while Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova admitted on Thursday that negotiations about a prisoner swap are ongoing and have not yet yielded an agreement.

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