September 22, 2023

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Americans Arrested in Russia | Moscow confirms arms dealer Viktor Bode is negotiating a swap

(Moscow) Moscow and Washington are discussing a prisoner exchange involving a Russian arms smuggler detained in the United States and an American basketball player detained in Russia, a Russian diplomat confirmed Saturday.

Posted at 8:27 p.m
Updated at 9:07 am

The United States has repeatedly said it has offered a “substantial opportunity” to free two Americans detained in Russia, basketball player Brittney Griner and former U.S. player Paul Whelan.

According to the US media, it would be a question of exchanging them for the so-called “merchant of death”, the famous Russian arms smuggler Viktor Bode, who is detained in the United States.

Mr. Bode was arrested in Thailand in 2008 and is serving a 25-year sentence in the United States. His extraordinary journey is one of the inspirations for the film God of war It stars Nicolas Cage as a cynical arms dealer.

Photo by Evgenia Novogenina, Associated Press

Brittney Griner

“Discussions about the most important subject of an exchange [prisonniers] It will happen through the channels chosen by our presidents,” said Alexander Dartsiev, director of the North American Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry.

The names cited by the US press “are considered real. Russia has been trying for a long time to release Viktor Bot,” he added in an interview published by the Russian news agency TASS on Saturday.

Mr. This is the first time Moscow has confirmed that discussions are taking place over a potential exchange involving the bot. The Kremlin has repeatedly criticized Washington.

The debate accelerated after basketball player Griner was sentenced in early August to nine years in prison for trafficking marijuana.

Brittney Griner, considered one of the best basketball players in the world, was arrested in Moscow in February for possession of a vaporizer containing a cannabis-based liquid.

His case took on a geopolitical dimension in the context of the crisis between Moscow and Washington linked to the Russian offensive in Ukraine.