Shortly after Brittney Griner landed in Texas early Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said further prisoner swaps between the two countries were possible.
Putin said “anything goes” when asked about future trades, noting that “compromises have been found” to settle the WNBA star’s swap for notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout.
“We will not refuse to continue this work in the future,” the Russian strongman added after a summit in Kyrgyzstan.
“Whether this could pave the way for a dialogue with the US is another question,” the chairman said. “We haven’t set ourselves the task of moving from these conversations to anything else, but they create a certain atmosphere.”
Despite securing Griner’s release, the US failed to secure the freedom of former US Marine Paul Whelan, a senior Michigan security official jailed in Russia since December 2018 on fabricated espionage charges.
“I don’t understand why I’m still sitting,” Whelan said Thursday at a Russian penal colony while Griner was on his way home.
“I am very disappointed that more was not done to secure my release as we approach the four-year anniversary of my arrest,” the 53-year-old told CNN in a phone interview.
“I was arrested for a crime that never happened,” he added. “I don’t understand why I’m still sitting here.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was Russian and American intelligence agencies that agreed to swap Bout for Griner. The deal was sharply criticized in America as the Biden team was outplayed by its Russian counterparts.
“It has no impact on the overall state of bilateral relations, which looks sad,” Peskov said in TV notes, adding that “special services can continue their work if necessary.”
Bout, known as “The Merchant of Death,” had been in US custody since 2008 when an undercover operation led by Thailand’s Drug Enforcement Administration arrested him.
Bout said he still had trouble controlling his emotions after his release and accused the West of destroying Russia.
“The West believes that it failed to take us down when the Soviet Union began to collapse,” he said. “And our efforts to live independently, to be an independent power, come as a shock to them.”
A company jet carrying Griner landed in San Antonio early Friday morning and was taken to Brooke Armey Medical Center for a medical evaluation.
With mail wires
https://nypost.com/2022/12/09/putin-says-more-us-prisoner-exchanges-are-possible/ Putin says more US prisoner swaps are possible