Who is Viktor Bout, the Russian “dealer in death” who could be released in exchange for Brittney Griner?

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Viktor Bout, Russian arms dealer known as the “Death Dealer”. arms sales fueled deadly conflicts around the world, could be sent back to his homeland in exchange for WNBA star Britney Greener and retired US Marine Paul Whelan.

Russian officials have long pushed for the release of Bout, who is currently serving a 25-year sentence in a US prison after being convicted in 2011 of conspiracy to kill Americans, conspiracy to deliver anti-aircraft missiles and aiding a terrorist organization.

He was arrested in 2010 during a sting operation at a luxury hotel. in Bangkok, Thailandwhere he met DEA informants who posed as members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, who were classified by US officials as a narco-terrorist group.

Alleged Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout walks past makeshift cells ahead of a hearing at the Criminal Court in Bangkok.

Alleged Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout walks past makeshift cells ahead of a hearing at the Criminal Court in Bangkok.
(CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBO/AFP via Getty Images)

Prosecutors said Bout was ready provide a group with “a spectacular $20 million arsenal of weapons, including hundreds of surface-to-air missiles, machine guns and sniper rifles, 10 million rounds of ammunition and five tons of plastic explosives.”

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Booth, played by Nicolas Cage in the 2005 film Lord of War, maintains his innocence, claiming he is a legitimate businessman.

Russian state news agency TASS initially reported in May that negotiations were underway to trade Bout for Griner.

Alleged Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout is escorted by police as he arrives for a hearing at the Criminal Court in Bangkok.

Alleged Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout is escorted by police as he arrives for a hearing at the Criminal Court in Bangkok.
(CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBO/AFP via Getty Images)

Russian officials see According to former Defense Intelligence Agency officer Rebecca Koffler, Bout is a “valuable asset” and is likely to be actively pushing for the exchange.

“Moscow wants him back because he has important knowledge that he can share with the GRU, his former agency. Having been in a US prison and interrogated by US officials, he knows what our intelligence requirements are and other information that is valuable to the Russians. , said Koffler, author of The Putin Book: Russia’s Secret Plan to Defeat America.

“It would be a big mistake for the US to turn down Viktor Bout, no matter how much we feel compassion for Ms. Greener and Mr. Whelan.”

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Biden administration confirmed on Wednesday that he had made a “substantial offer” to help free Griner and Whelan.

“The U.S. government continues to work hard to make this happen, and as part of that effort, we have made a substantial offer to bring Britney Greener and Paul Whelan home,” a White House spokesman told Fox News Wednesday.

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Griner was arrested at a Russian airport in mid-February after police said they found cannabis oil in her bags. She pleaded guilty this month on charges of drug smuggling and could face up to 10 years in prison, but she said her “intent” was not to violate Russian law.

Whelan was sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2020 on espionage charges, but he and his family have maintained their innocence while the US government has called the charges false.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.