Russia frees US basketballer in prison swap for ‘Merchant of Death’ arms dealer

The WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner (L) was thrown into a Russian penal colony last month (Picture: AP)

Russia has freed US basketball star Brittney Griner in a prisoner swap with one of the world’s largest illicit arms dealers, US officials said.

Griner was set to serve nine years in a penal colony after a Russian court convicted her on a drug use charge.

But in a wrenchingly long-sought deal, Griner, 32, has been released in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, known as the ‘Merchant of Death’.

Bout has, among other things, been accused of supplying arms to Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and rebels in Rwanda. 

He had served less than half of his 25-year-long prison sentence.

President Joe Biden is expected to give remarks at 8:45am (ET).

The move marks one of the most high-profile prisoner swaps between Washington and Moscow since the Cold War.

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