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12 Dec, 2022 10:19

Trump rejected Viktor Bout prisoner swap

The ex-US president said he turned down an exchange involving former Marine Paul Whelan and the Russian businessman
Trump rejected Viktor Bout prisoner swap

Former US President Donald Trump claimed on Sunday that during his term in office, he refused to swap Russian businessman Viktor Bout for former American Marine Paul Whelan, who was sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2020 on espionage charges and remains in Russian custody.

Last week, Moscow and Washington conducted a prisoner swap involving Bout, who was convicted in the US on gun-running charges, and American WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner, who was found guilty of smuggling drugs into Russia.

Writing on his social media site Truth Social, the former president said he had “turned down a deal with Russia for a one-on-one swap of the so-called Merchant of Death [Viktor Bout] for Paul Whelan.” According to Trump, he “would not have made the deal for a hundred people in exchange for someone that has killed untold numbers of people with his arms deals.”

He went on to say that he “would have gotten” Paul out, without explaining how. He also slammed the swap involving Griner as “crazy and bad,” adding that “the taking wouldn’t have even happened during my Administration,” and if it had, he would have quickly secured her release.

Following the Griner-Bout swap, Trump denounced the deal as a “stupid and unpatriotic embarrassment” for the US. “Why wasn’t former Marine Paul Whelan included in this totally one-sided transaction?” he said at the time.

Bout was sentenced in the US to 25 years on arms-trafficking charges which he has repeatedly denied. Speaking to RT last week, he said the sanctions placed on him by the US were an “experiment,” and a warning to fellow Russians.

Last Thursday, he was exchanged for Griner, who was sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony for drug trafficking after cannabis oil was found in her luggage at a Moscow airport.

Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested on Friday that new prisoner swaps with the US remain a possibility. The Griner-Bout deal “is the result of negotiations and searching for compromises… We aren’t refusing to continue this work in the future,” he stated.