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18 Nov, 2022 12:31

Russia comments on potential prisoner swap with US

Jailed businessman Viktor Bout is among the people being discussed, a senior diplomat says
Russia comments on potential prisoner swap with US

Moscow is continuing behind-the-scenes discussions with Washington about a potential prisoner swap involving jailed Russian businessman Viktor Bout, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov has said.

Bout was sentenced to 25 years in jail in 2012 following a conviction on gun-running charges. He denied any wrongdoing and is currently imprisoned in Marion, Illinois.

“The Americans are showing certain activity, and we are working [on this issue] through an appropriate channel,” Ryabkov told reporters on Friday.

“We haven’t found common ground yet, but, undoubtedly, Viktor Bout is among those being discussed, and, obviously, we are hoping for a positive result.” 

Bout was born in 1967 and served in the Soviet military in the 1980s. After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, he founded an air freight business, according to his personal website.

In 2008, Bout was arrested in Thailand after a sting operation run by the US Drug Enforcement Administration. He was subsequently extradited to the US, where he was accused of agreeing to sell weapons to informants posing as members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a left-wing guerrilla group that the US listed as a terrorist organization at the time.

CNN reported in July that the White House had offered to exchange Bout for US nationals Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner. A former US Marine, Whelan is serving a 16-year prison sentence in Russia following a 2020 espionage conviction. He pleaded not guilty during the trial. Griner, a professional basketball player who pleaded guilty to illegally bringing cannabis oil into Russia, was sentenced to nine years in jail in August.

In April, the US released Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot who spent 12 years behind bars for a drug-smuggling conviction. He was swapped for former US Marine Trevor Reed, who was sentenced to nine years in prison after being found guilty of disorderly conduct and assaulting police officers in Moscow.