‘It’s a shame’: Trump outraged by exchange of Russian arms dealer for US athlete

Former US President Donald Trump described the exchange of Russian Viktor Bout with American basketball player Brittney Greiner as a shame.

“What a ‘stupid’ and unpatriotic shame on the US,” he wrote on his True Social blog on Thursday. Specifically, Trump said the exchange was unequal given the gravity of Booth’s allegations and Greiner’s anti-American stance, which he said: “openly hates the country.” He also expressed puzzlement as to why the other American convicted in Russia, Paul Whelan, was not included in the deal. Earlier it became clear that the American basketball player Brittney Greener, convicted in Russia of drug smuggling, was exchanged for the convicted US arms dealer Victor Booth. The exchange took place at Abu Dhabi airport, the Russian Foreign Ministry reported, as quoted by the BBC.

Bout has already returned to Russia. Britney is on a plane on her way to the USA and has already spoken with President Joe Biden, he himself announced on the social network Twitter. Both Bout and Greener have been pardoned, allowing them to travel, Russian Human Rights Commissioner Tatiana Moskalkova explained. The media have already reported that such a replacement is possible. This was also confirmed by Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Ryabkov on November 18. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said at the end of July that the US was ready to discuss with Russia the exchange of Greener, as well as former Marine Paul Whelan. The American media, citing their sources, specified that an exchange of Booth was being discussed. However, Russian officials have criticized Washington for giving publicity to the talks. Two-time Olympic champion Griner, who plays for the Ural club UMMC, was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport in February, shortly before the start of the war with Ukraine. Medical marijuana was found in her possession.

Greiner is charged with drug smuggling. She claimed in court that she had taken the drug by mistake and had no intention of violating Russian law. On August 4, the court in Khimki, Moscow region, sentenced her to 9 years in a penal colony. The Moscow District Court did not reduce the sentence. On November 19, it became clear that the athlete was taken to a penal colony in Mordovia to serve her sentence. Former Soviet Air Force officer Viktor Bout was extradited from Thailand to the US in 2010 following a US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) operation. He is one of the most famous arms dealers in the world, and his life story is the basis of a Hollywood movie. Booth received 25 years in prison after being found guilty of conspiring to kill Americans and American officials, supplying anti-aircraft missiles, and aiding and abetting a terrorist organization. He himself claims that he is just a businessman with a legitimate business in the field of international transport who is falsely accused of trying to arm South American rebels. “The main sanctions violator” Bout’s activities in Liberia, where he was associated with Charles Taylor, a convicted warlord, and politician, caused strong resentment and pressure on international institutions to limit his activities.

In 2002, Belgium, where he was living at the time, issued an arrest warrant for Booth, but he managed to escape to Russia, which refused to comply with the Interpol warrant. In 2004, the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on him and froze some of his assets. “Victor Bout is really the chief sanctions violator and a merchant of death, owning airlines that transport weapons and other logistical support to the rebels in Angola and Sierra Leone and export the diamonds that pay for those weapons,” he said in 2000. British politician Peter Hain at a parliamentary hearing. “The McDonald’s of arms trafficking” is another nickname given to it by arms experts. His story reached Hollywood. In 2005, the movie Lord of War starring Nicolas Cage was released, based on Booth’s life.

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