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Meet Viktor Bout, The ‘Merchant of Death’ Traded for Britney Griner

Russian tank firing. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

President Joe Biden shared a video on Twitter on Friday showing Cherelle Griner, the wife of freed American basketball player Brittney Griner, in the Oval Office.

In the video, the president tells Griner that her wife is “on the ground” after being freed from a Russian prison.

“She’s on the ground,” the president says as he hugs Griner.

Later in the video, Griner can be seen sitting at the president’s desk, along with Vice President Kamala Harris, grinning and celebrating the news.

“It’s such a good day!” Griner says.

The president captioned the video “Brittney’s coming home.”

But Griner isn’t the only one coming home.

So is Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who was extradited to the United States in 2010 and convicted on terrorism charges.

Biden Trades Griner for Bout

Griner’s release from a Russian prison, where she was held for 10 months after being sentenced to nine years in prison on smuggling charges, was agreed upon in return for the release of Bout.

The prisoner swap was met with mixed reactions from Americans and political leaders.

While some celebrated the news, the fact that American security executive Paul Whelan remains in a Russian prison – after reportedly being told by the White House that things were “moving in the right direction.”

Former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki defended the deal on Twitter on Friday, arguing that the move paves the way for the eventual release of Paul Whelan.

Psaki claimed that if the Russians weren’t yet ready to give up Whelan, the White House would have been wrong to simply leave Griner behind.

“They now have a better sense of how to get Whelan home,” she added.

Who Is Viktor Bout?

Bout’s release is controversial and for good reason.

The Russian arms dealer and entrepreneur, who previously served as a Soviet military translator, was arrested in 2008 during a trip to Thailand following a U.S.-orchestrated sting operation.

Bout was extradited to the United States, where he was convicted by a jury in a Manhattan federal court over charges of conspiring to kill U.S. citizens and government officials, selling anti-aircraft missiles, and providing aid to a terrorist organization.

Bout was fooled into believing that he would be selling the weapons to a representative of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia, though the man Bout was dealing with was an undercover agent working for the United States Drug Enforcement Administration.

Also known as the “merchant of death,” Bout was one of the most wanted men in the world before his 2008 arrest.

Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive’s Breaking News Editor. 

Written By

Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive's Breaking News Editor. He is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.