Viktor Bout: Russia hopes for “positive outcome” on prisoner exchange talks
Russia said it hopes for a “positive outcome” on the issue of exchanging Russian national Viktor Bout, a convicted arms trafficker serving a 25-year US prison sentence in the United States, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said on Friday, according to state media TASS.
In July, CNN reported that the Biden administration offered to exchange Bout as part of a potential deal to secure the release of two Americans held by Russia, basketball star Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan. But Russian officials have requested that Vadim Krasikov, a former colonel from the country’s domestic spy agency, be included in the US’ proposed swap of Bout for Griner and Whelan, multiple sources familiar with the discussions have previously told CNN.
“Americans are demonstrating some outward activity. We are engaged professionally through a specially designated channel. We haven’t reached a common denominator yet,” Ryabkov told reporters on Friday, according to TASS. “But it’s beyond doubt that Viktor Bout is one of those that are being discussed and we certainly hope for a positive outcome.”
Ryabkov added that the possibility of a prisoner swap is not only possible but is getting stronger, “and the time will come when the prospect will become a concrete agreement,” state media reported.
“We wish him the tenacity and strength to overcome the ordeal that befell him as part of the US prosecution,” the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister added.
In August, Bout’s attorney Steve Zissou told CNN’s New Day he is “confident” the proposed prisoner swap of his client is going to happen, adding, “Look, it’s no secret they’ve been wanting him back for several years now. They’ve been trying to get him back for decades.”
The families of Whelan, who has been held by Russia for alleged espionage since 2018, and WNBA star Griner, jailed in Moscow for drug possession since February, have urged the White House to secure their release. The State Department has declared that both Griner and Whelan are wrongfully detained.
US and Irish Embassy officials were able to visit with Paul Whelan at his remote penal colony in Russia on Wednesday, his brother said in an email.
On Thursday, Griner’s lawyers confirmed she had been transferred to a penal colony in Yavas, in the western Russian region of Mordovia, ending days of speculation over her whereabouts.
Her attorneys, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, thanked everyone who has reached out in support.
“First, on behalf of Brittney, we would like to thank everyone who has expressed care for her,” they said in a statement. “We can confirm that Brittney began serving her sentence at IK-2 in Mordovia.”
“We visited her early this week. Brittney is doing as well as could be expected and trying to stay strong as she adapts to a new environment. Considering that this is a very challenging period for her, there will be no further comments from us.”