WNBA players ramp up calls for Brittney Griner to be released from ‘hellhole’ Russian prison on her 100th day of detention as reports emerge that Putin wants arms dealer known as ‘Merchant of Death’ in exchange for basketball star -Daily Mail
The WNBA players and their union leaders called on everyone to use their platforms to bring attention to Brittney Griner’s detention in Russia.
Several WNBA and NBA players tweeted about Griner on Saturday, urging the White House to prioritize her safe return home immediately. Griner’s wife, Cherelle, said she wants more proof that Griner would be released.
Viktor Bout, 54, has been imprisoned in the US since 2012 on charges of supplying weapons to a designated State Department terrorist group. Brittney Griner, 31, was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on charges of carrying in her luggage vape cartridges with cannabis oil, which is illegal in Russia.
Two weeks after Griner’s most recent court hearing, the Russian state news agency TASS reported that officials were looking to swap Griner for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer convicted of distributing weapons to the FARC in Colombia.
Former US ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson is negotiating for Griner’s release. He was optimistic that it would happen soon.
Bout has been linked to prisoner swaps for US citizens Trevor Reed and Paul Whelan. Griner plays for the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA.
Whelan’s brother told The Guardian that Russian officials had told him they hoped to swap Whelan for Bout, the Russian man found guilty of fighting police officers in Moscow. The State Department has not commented on the rumors.
Bout was the inspiration for Nicholas Cage’s character in 2005 movie ‘Lord of War’ and was accused of selling weapons to Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and disgraced former Liberian President Charles Taylor.
Former US intel officer Rebekah Koffer warned that releasing Bout could set a dangerous precedent, and that he could tempt Putin to kidnap other Americans in the hopes that he could exchange them for Russian assets.