Why Is Joe Biden Administration Releasing Convicted Russian Arms Dealer Viktor Bout? Who Are Brittney Griner And Paul Whelan?

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The Joe Biden Administration has sensationally offered to release the convicted Russian arms dealer, Viktor Bout, who is currently serving a 25-year US prison sentence in America. The development, as reported by CNN, has taken place after months of intense debate. The decision to release Bout was opposed by the US Department of Justice, which has traditionally been opposed to prisoner trades.

Viktor Bout
Photo: Newsweek

Why Is Viktor Bout Being Released?

Bout is a former Soviet military officer, who is currently serving a 25-year jail sentence in the United States on charges of conspiring to kill Americans, acquire and export anti-aircraft missiles, and provide material support to a terrorist organization. The Russian arms dealer has always denied allegations against him.

Bout was sentenced in 2012 triggering angry reactions from Russia, which termed his sentencing ‘baseless and biased’ in the past.

Preet Bharara, the US attorney in Manhattan, had said in 2012 after Bout’s setencing, “Viktor Bout has been international arms trafficking enemy number one for many years, arming some of the most violent conflicts around the globe.”

Who Are Brittney Griner And Paul Whelan?

Whelan was arrested by Russia in 2018 on charges of espionage, while Griner was jailed in Moscow in February this year for alleged drug possession. Whelan received a 16-year prison sentence with the possibility of time in a labor camp on 15 June 2020.

Whelan is a US citizen and a former Marine. He is also a citizen of the United Kingdom, Ireland and Canada.

As for Griner, the 31-year-old has been a star Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) player, and is considered to be the best offensive player in the league. In 2021, she was selected as one of the best 25 players in the history of the WNBA league.

The Biden administration has offered to release Bout in exchange for the release of Griner and Whelan from Russian custody. This was confirmed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, whol told reporters on Wednesday, “We put a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago.”

Blinken said that he aimed to discuss the offer with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov ‘in the coming days.’