The four prisoners who could be exchanged between the US and Russia

(L to R) Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, American basketball player Brittney Griner and former US Marine Paul Whelan afp_tickers

This content was published on 05 August 2022 – 12:01


Russia and the United States negotiate a new prisoner exchange, in one of the few dialogues that Moscow and Washington maintain active in full tension over the Russian offensive in Ukraine.

This Friday, both countries said they were willing to continue talks, the day after basketball star Brittney Griner was sentenced in Russia to nine years in prison.

Three Americans, detained in Russia, and a Russian, who is serving a long sentence in a US prison, could be involved in this exchange.

-Brittney Griner-

Griner was sentenced Thursday to nine years in prison in a Russian penal colony and to pay a fine of one million rubles ($16,590) for drug possession and smuggling.

She was detained at a Moscow airport in February in possession of a cannabis-based vape liquid, which she says was prescribed for her by a doctor. The arrest came just days before Moscow launched its offensive in Ukraine on February 24.

The 31-year-old Phoenix Mercury player, considered one of the best in the world, was in Russia to play for a club in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg during the offseason.

-Paul Whelan-

Former US Marine Paul Whelan, 52, was arrested in December 2018, accused by the Russian security services of espionage.

This security director of an American vehicle parts company was sentenced to 16 years in prison for espionage in June 2020.

During his closed-door trial, Whelan insisted he was innocent, claiming an acquaintance set him up by giving him a USB drive he thought contained photos taken during a previous trip to Russia.

He did not look at the contents of the drive, but his lawyer said it contained “state secrets”.

He claims he was in Russia to attend a wedding.

-Marc Fogel-

A teacher at an American school in Moscow and a former diplomat, American Marc Fogel was sentenced in June in Russia to 14 years in prison for “large-scale” cannabis trafficking.

Russian authorities say they found marijuana and hashish oil in Fogel’s luggage when he arrived from New York at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.

According to Russian media, the incident occurred in August 2021 and Fogel had 11 grams of marijuana and eight grams of cannabis oil.

Fogel claims that marijuana was prescribed to him in the United States for medical purposes after a spinal operation.

Russia does not recognize the use of this substance for medical purposes.

-Viktor Bout-

Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout was sentenced in 2012 to 25 years in prison in the United States after being accused of arming rebels in some of the world’s bloodiest conflicts.

This 55-year-old man is considered the most high-profile Russian incarcerated in the United States.

A former translator and radio operator for the Soviet air force, Bout, 55, was arrested in Thailand in 2008 during a covert operation in which US agents posed as Colombian FARC rebels searching for weapons.

It inspired the 2005 arms smuggling movie “The Warlord,” starring Nicolas Cage.

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