Russia has today confirmed that it is in talks to swap Brittney Griner for Viktor Bout, the notorious ‘Merchant of Death’ arms dealer who has been imprisoned in the US since 2010.
Speaking during a visit to Cambodia on Friday, August, 5, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said: ‘We are ready to discuss this topic, but within the framework of the channel that was agreed upon by presidents Putin and Biden.’
He however warned that if US officials speak about the deal in the press – as they did before Griner’s sentencing it could jeopardize the swap.
‘If the Americans decide to once again resort to public diplomacy, that is their business and I would even say that it is their problem.’
Griner was sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony yesterday after being found guilty of smuggling drugs into Moscow airport.
A source close to the negotiations told Mail Online Biden’s position had weakened now that Griner has been found guilty and sentenced.
‘The US positioned has weakened now. They showed their hand and now their bargaining position has weakened,’ the source said.
Bout was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2012 for using multiple air transport companies to smuggle weapons out of eastern Europe to Africa and the Middle East.
He had already served four years and has since completed another ten. Bout technically has 11 years left on his sentence, and must serve only 85 percent of the total term under federal prison guidelines which makes him eligible for release in around five or six.