WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner, convicted in Russia of drug smuggling, has exchanged for Russian Viktor Bout, sentenced to 25 years in prison in the United States for illegal arms trafficking (Bout had served 12 years of his sentence until the exchange), according to reports by the BBC and CNN. The Russian Foreign Ministry also confirmed to state-owned news agency TASS that Bout had returned to the country.
In late July, the Biden administration proposed exchanging Bout for Russian detainees Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, CNN reported, citing sources with knowledge of the matter.
Griner had been detained since February, when she was arrested on drug smuggling charges at an airport in the Moscow region. Despite her testimony that she had inadvertently packed the cannabis oil that was found in her luggage, she was sentenced to nine years in prison in early August and was moved to a penal colony in the Mordovia republic in mid-November after losing her appeal.
Griner, a two-time Olympic and world champion on the US national team, and WNBA champion with Phoenix Mercury, is one of the most decorated female basketball players in the world. Griner had played for UMMC Yekaterinburg since 2015 in the WNBA off-season.
Victor Bout was detained in 2008 in Bangkok on a warrant issued by a local court at the request of the United States. He was charged of illegally supplying weapons to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), conspiring to kill Americans, and acquire and export anti-aircraft missiles. Bout was extradited to the United States in 2010. In April 2012, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison and a $15 million fine.