Latest on the war in Ukraine
MADRID, Dec. 9 (.) –
The Kremlin has ruled out this Friday that the agreement with the United States for a prisoner exchange represents a step in the normalization of bilateral relations, one day after the release of the American basketball player Brittney Griner in exchange for the arms dealer Viktor Bout, known as ‘the merchant of death’.
“The negotiations dealt exclusively with the issue of the exchange,” said the spokesman for the Russian Presidency, Dimitri Peskov, who stressed that “it is wrong to draw hypothetical conclusions about whether it could be a step to overcome the bilateral crisis,” according to has picked up the Russian newspaper ‘Izvestia’.
Thus, he stressed that “bilateral relations continue to be bad” and noted that “the most important thing is that a Russian citizen who has been held captive by the Americans for fourteen years, in an absolutely illegal imprisonment, has returned to his homeland”. “Thank God that he is alive and well, but the doctors have yet to determine his state of health. We wish him a speedy rehabilitation,” he concluded.
Bout himself thanked all those involved in his release after reaching Russian territory. “Thank you very much to everyone who has participated, who has helped. I am incredibly happy,” he said, before recounting that his release was a surprise, since he was not notified in advance.
Bout’s wife, Alla, has said that the arms dealer is “exhausted” because he “has not slept for three days”, as reported by the Russian news agency TASS. However, she has highlighted that the United States treated him “nobly and with respect”: “I hope that all his documents and drawings will be delivered soon to the Russian Embassy in Washington,” she stressed.
For his part, Griner arrived in the United States one day after his release, applauded by his family, who thanked the authorities for their work. They have also expressed their desire that Paul Whelan, a former US marine sentenced in Russia to 16 years in prison for espionage, be released along with the rest of the “unfairly detained” Americans.
Hours earlier, the Secretary of State of the United States, Antony Blinken, had affirmed that Washington is willing to maintain “contacts” with Russia to achieve “advance national interests”, while defending the aforementioned exchange of prisoners. However, he has acknowledged that he would have liked to also have Whelan released: “We have been doing everything possible to get him out,” he stressed.