Biden’s authorization to release Bout, the Russian criminal once nicknamed «the merchant of death,» underscored the great urgency his administration faced in bringing Griner home, particularly after the recent resolution of his criminal case on charges of drugs and his subsequent transfer to a prison. Suburb.
Griner was seen getting off a plane that landed Friday at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas.
The athlete, who also played professional basketball in Russia, was arrested at an airport there in February after Russian authorities said she was carrying vape canisters filled with cannabis oil. Prior to her conviction, the US State Department stated that Griner had been «wrongfully detained,» a charge that Russia has strongly rejected.
The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed the exchange on Thursday, saying in a statement carried by Russian news agencies that the exchange took place in Abu Dhabi and that Bout had returned home.
Biden spoke to Griner on the phone. US officials said they would offer him specialized medical services and advice.
By freeing Bout, the United States freed a former Soviet Army lieutenant colonel whom the Justice Department once described as one of the world’s most prolific arms dealers. He was arrested in Thailand in 2008 and extradited to the United States in 2010.
Bout was serving a 25-year sentence on charges of conspiring to sell tens of millions of dollars worth of weapons that US officials said would be used against Americans.
Following Griner’s arrest at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport in February, she pleaded guilty in July but was still tried because admitting guilt in Russia’s court system does not automatically end a case.
He acknowledged in court that he possessed cans of cannabis oil, but said he had no criminal intent and that he accidentally packed them. His defense team submitted written statements that he had been prescribed cannabis to treat pain.