A Russian diplomat confirmed today, Saturday, that Moscow and Washington are discussing a possible exchange of detainees that would include a Russian arms dealer imprisoned in the United States and an American basketball player imprisoned in Russia.
The United States has announced several times that it has made a “serious proposal” to Russia to release American women’s basketball star Britney Greiner and former US soldier Paul Whelan.
And US media reported that it was about exchanging Britney Grainer and Paul Whelan for Victor Bout.
Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout was arrested in Thailand in 2008 and is serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States.
“Discussions on the highly sensitive issue of the (prisoner) exchange are taking place through channels chosen by our heads of state,” said Alexander Darchev, director of the North American division of the Russian Foreign Ministry.
He added, in an interview published by the Russian news agency (TASS) today, Saturday, that the names reported by the American media “are already being considered. Russia has been seeking the release of Victor Bout for a long time.”
He explained that “quiet diplomacy is continuing and must bear fruit if Washington (…) is, of course, keen to avoid being drawn into propaganda.”
This is the first time Moscow has confirmed that discussions are underway over a possible exchange involving Bout.
These negotiations accelerated after Greiner was sentenced to nine years in prison in early August for drug smuggling.
The Phoenix Mercury player, who is considered one of the best basketball players in the world, was arrested last February in Moscow, in possession of e-cigarette packages containing cannabis liquid.
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