Brittney Griner prisoner swap for ‘Merchant of Death’ not being considered right now, Russian official says
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Russian officials will not consider Brittney Griner for a prisoner swap with the U.S. “until a court investigation into her case is completed,” a Russian diplomat said Tuesday.
A Moscow court extended Griner’s detention until July 2. It was the third time her detention has been extended, Russian state-run media TASS reported. She was arrested in February for allegedly trying to bring vape cartridges containing oils derived from cannabis through a Moscow airport. She’s been held ever since with limited public appearances.
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Griner has been rumored to be potentially involved in a detainee swap involving Viktor Bout, who is in the middle of a 25-year sentence in federal prison after he was convicted of conspiracy to kill Americans relating to the support of a Colombian terrorist organization.
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov made the comment about Griner and Bout. He gave no timeline for the proceedings in the player’s case.
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Bout was dubbed the “Merchant of Death” because of his notoriety for running a fleet of aging Soviet-era cargo planes to conflict-ridden hotspots in Africa. His dealings inspired the Nicolas Cage film “Lord of War.”
Russia’s TASS agency reported last month, citing a source, that talks were underway in a prisoner exchange: Griner for Bout.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters Tuesday he believed department officials learned of Griner’s extension through Russian state-run media.
“This case is problematic from top to bottom,” Price said. “It is precisely why we have characterized Brittney Griner as an unlawful detainee. It’s precisely why we are doing everything we can to seek and to affect her prompt release from Russian detention.”
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Griner could face up to 10 years in a Russian prison if she’s convicted.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.