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JUST IN: Russia frees US basketball star in prisoner swap

 

The US and Russia have exchanged jailed US basketball star Brittney Griner for notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout, held in an American prison for 12 years.

The swap was approved by President Joe Biden in recent days, sources told CBS.

Griner was arrested at a Moscow airport in February for possessing cannabis oil and last month sent to a penal colony, reports the BBC.

President Biden tweeted that he had spoken to Griner, that she was safe and was on her way home.

The Biden administration proposed a prisoner exchange last July, aware Moscow had long sought Bout’s release.

Russia’s foreign ministry confirmed the swap and Russian media reported that it had taken place in Abu Dhabi.

President Biden signed the order for Bout’s release, commuting his 25-year jail term.

Viktor Bout sold arms to warlords and rogue governments, becoming one of the world’s most wanted men.

Dubbed the “merchant of death” for gun-running in the years after the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian’s exploits inspired the 2005 Hollywood film Lord of War, which was loosely based on his life.

His secretive career was brought to an end by an elaborate US sting in 2008, when he was arrested at a hotel in the Thai capital Bangkok, to the anger of the Russian government.

He was extradited two years later and has spent the past 12 years languishing in an American jail for conspiring to support terrorists and kill Americans.

 

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