Russia has expressed a more positive attitude about a potential prisoner swap with the United States for convicted arms trafficker Viktor Bout, known as the “Merchant of Death.”
Russia’s Interfax news agency reported on Friday that Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters that the Kremlin hopes the chances of the United States and Russia reaching an agreement on Bout will ” reinforce”.
“I hope the perspective is not only preserved, it is strengthened, and the time will come when we get a concrete agreement from the point of view,” Ryabkov said.
“Americans show a certain outward activity, we work professionally through a special channel designed for this purpose,” he said. “Viktor Bout is among those in discussion, and we are certainly counting on a positive outcome.”
The potential swap includes WNBA star Britney Griner, who was convicted of drug charges this year, and Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine, according to Reuters.
Ryabkov’s comments come after reports that Griner was transferred to a Russian penal colony to start her nine-year prison sentence.
Russian authorities claimed to have found cannabis vape cartridges in his possession at a Moscow airport.
Griner was then arrested just days before Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The United States has denounced her imprisonment as illegitimate and called on Russia to release her immediately.
The Biden administration has worked to free Griner and Whelan by reaching a deal with Russia, but has yet to secure their release.
Russia has previously signaled it wants the US to release Bout, who was convicted of conspiring to kill US citizens, deliver anti-aircraft missiles and aid a terrorist organization ten years ago. year.
He is serving a 25-year prison sentence.
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