Russian prisoner swap with US basketball player

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Russian prisoner swap with US basketball player

In this July 7, 2022 photo, US basketball player Brittney Griner, who was arrested in February in Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, is escorted before a court hearing in Khimki, outside Moscow, Russia. EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA REUTERS WASHINGTON MOSCOW Russian citizen Viktor Bout was exchanged for US basketball player Brittney Griner on Thursday at Abu Dhabi airport, Russia's foreign ministry announced.

Griner, who has been in Russia since February, has been released and is heading home, according to the Russian ministry.

READ MORE: Griner Prisoner swap: Russia, US engage in 'quiet' diplomacy

The US side has confirmed the completion of the prisoner swap.

Griner, a 32-year-old two-time Olympic medalist for the US women's national basketball team, was arrested in February for illegally bringing cannabis into Russia. Her arrest came days before Ukraine's crisis broke out and as US-Russian tensions escalated.

In August, she was sentenced to nine years in prison and fined 1 million rubles $15,773 for drug smuggling.

In 2008, Bout was arrested by Thai police at the request of Washington and charged with selling weapons to a US-designated foreign terrorist group. He was extradited to the United States in 2010 and was sentenced to 25 years behind bars with a fine of $15 million in 2012.

Washington refused a dialogue on the inclusion of Bout in the exchange scheme. Russia continued to work to rescue our compatriot, the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement on Telegram.

Russian citizen Viktor Bout is escorted by a member of the special police unit as he arrives at a criminal court in Bangkok, Thailand, in this Oct 4, 2010 file photo. DAMIR SAGOLJ REUTERS US President Joe Biden said in the morning that he spoke with Griner by phone. He thanked the authorities in the United Arab Emirates, where the prisoner swap took place.