Russian Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said on the 9th december that the agreement between Russia and the United States on the exchange of detainees should not be taken as a sign of improving bilateral relations, which remain bad.
Russia and the United States completed the exchange of detainees at the Abu Dhabi airport in the United Arab Emirates on the 8th. Russia released American women’s basketball player Brittney Griner in exchange for Russian arms dealer Victor Bout, serving was prison sentence in the United States. Peskov told media reporters on the 9th that it was “incorrect” to regard the exchange of detainees as a sign of improvement in Russia-US relations, and that “negotiations were limited to the exchange of detainees.”
The U.S. government originally hoped to achieve a “one-for-two exchange”, that is, to release Bout in exchange for the release of Griner and former Marine Corps member Paul Whelan. A U.S. government official told the U.S. media on the 8th that the Russian side rejected the U.S. proposal to release Whelan in every negotiations and was unwilling to discuss related matters. The White House explained that the US can only choose between Griner’s release and no return.
Greiner was detained in February when he flew from New York to Moscow because he had e-cigarettes containing marijuana oil in his luggage. In August, he was sentenced to nine years in prison for drug possession and smuggling. She returned to the United States in the early morning of the 9th. Whelan was arrested in Moscow in December 2018 and sentenced to 16 years in prison in June 2020 for espionage.
Bout was sentenced to 25 years in prison in the United States in 2012 on charges including illegal arms sale and participating in the murder of an American citizen. He returned to Moscow late at night on the 8th