Moscow confirmed Thursday it had exchanged US basketball star Brittney Griner, who had been jailed in Russia, for notorious arms trafficker Viktor Bout, who was serving a 25-year sentence in the United States.
“On December 8, 2022, at the Abu Dhabi airport, the exchange of Russian citizen Viktor Bout for US citizen Brittney Griner… was successfully completed,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
Moscow said it had been negotiating with Washington to secure Bout’s release “for a long time” and that initially the US had “refused dialogue” on including him in any swap.
“Nevertheless, the Russian Federation continued to actively work to rescue our compatriot. The Russian citizen has been returned to his homeland,” the defence ministry said.
Bout was sentenced in 2012 to 25 years in a US jail after he was accused of arming rebels in some of the world’s bloodiest conflicts.
Griner, 32, was arrested shortly before Russia’s February offensive in Ukraine at a Moscow airport for possessing vape cartridges with cannabis oil.
Her lawyers confirmed to AFP on Thursday that the exchange took place.