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Biden Slammed Over Griner, Bout Exchange

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US President Biden has been slammed as weak after Viktor Bout, the Russian arms dealer was exchanged for WNBA star Brittney Griner.

US President Biden has been slammed as weak after Viktor Bout, the Russian arms dealer was exchanged for WNBA star Brittney Griner. Bout is widely known abroad as the “Merchant of Death,” fueling some of the world’s worst conflicts.

In Russia, however, he’s seen as a swashbuckling businessman who was unjustly imprisoned after an overly aggressive U.S. sting operation. In 2008, one of the world’s leading illegal arms dealers was apprehended in Thailand on suspicion of supplying weapons to a Colombian rebel group.

Victor Bout is a former Soviet air force officer who gained fame supposedly by supplying weapons for civil wars in South America, the Middle East and Africa.

The 41-year-old former Russian KGB officer allegedly sold weapons to anyone willing to pay, including Taliban forces and various warring factions in more than a dozen African countries.

Biden Slammed for Viktor Bout, Brittney Griner Exchange

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement the swap took place in Abu Dhabi, and Russian TV showed a video of Bout in a private jet, getting his blood pressure checked and speaking with his family by phone.

It later showed his arrival at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport, with his wife and mother hugging him.

“They simply woke me up and told me to gather my belongings,” Bout said, referring to U.S. prison officials. “They didn’t provide any special information, but I understood the unfolding situation.”

Tass reported that Bout’s mother, Raisa, thanked President Vladimir Putin and the Foreign Ministry for freeing her son.

Russia had pushed for Bout’s release for years, and as speculation about a deal grew, the upper house of parliament opened a display of paintings he created while imprisoned, ranging from Soviet dictator Josef Stalin to a kitten.

The show of his art underlined Bout’s complexities. Though in a bloody business, the 55-year-old was a vegetarian and classical music fan who is said to speak six languages.

Even the former federal judge who sentenced him in 2011 to 11 years in prison was sufficient punishment.

“He’s done enough time for what he did in this case,” Shira A. Scheindlin told The Associated Press in July as prospects for his release appeared to rise.

Biden Slammed for Viktor Bout, Brittney Griner Exchange

Griner, arrested in February at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport after vape canisters containing cannabis oil were discovered in her luggage, was sentenced to nine years in August.

Washington protested her sentence as disproportionate, and some observers suggested that trading an arms merchant for someone jailed for a small number of drugs would be a poor deal.

Bout was convicted in 2011 on terrorism charges. Prosecutors said he was willing to sell weapons worth up to $20 million, including surface-to-air missiles capable of shooting down US helicopters. When they claimed at his sentencing in 2012, Bout yelled, “It’s a lie! ”

Bout has maintained his innocence throughout, describing himself as a legitimate businessman who did not sell weapons.

Bout’s case fits well into Moscow’s narrative that Washington sought to trap and oppress innocent Russians on flimsy grounds.

“From the resonant Bout case, a real ‘hunt’ by Americans for Russian citizens around the world has unfolded,” the government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta wrote last year.

Biden Slammed for Viktor Bout, Brittney Griner Exchange

Russia has increasingly cited his case as a human rights issue. His wife and lawyer claimed his health deteriorated in the harsh prison environment where foreigners are not always eligible for breaks that Americans might receive.

Bout had not been scheduled to be released until 2029. He was held in a medium-security facility in Marion, Illinois.

“He got a hard deal,” said Scheindlin, the retired judge, noting the U.S. sting operatives “put words in his mouth” so he’d say he was aware Americans could die from weapons he sold to require a terrorism enhancement that would force a long prison sentence, if not a life term.

Scheindlin gave Bout the mandatory minimum 25-year sentence but said she did so only because it was required.

At the time, his defence lawyer claimed the U.S. targeted Bout vindictively because it was embarrassing that his companies helped deliver goods to American military contractors involved in the war in Iraq.

The deliveries took place despite UN sanctions imposed on Bout in 2001 due to his reputation as a notorious illegal arms dealer.

Prosecutors had urged Scheindlin to sentence Bout to life in prison, claiming that if he was right to call himself a businessman, “he was a businessman of the most dangerous order.”

Biden Slammed for Viktor Bout, Brittney Griner Exchange

When Bout was arrested in Bangkok, Thailand, in March 2008, his net worth was estimated to be around $6 billion. Authorities in the United States duped him into leaving Russia for what he thought was a business meeting to ship what prosecutors described as “a breathtaking arsenal of weapons — including hundreds of surface-to-air missiles, machine guns, and sniper rifles — 10 million rounds of ammunition, and five tons of plastic explosives.”

He was apprehended at a Bangkok luxury hotel following conversations with Drug Enforcement Administration informants posing as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, also known as the FARC. Washington had classified the group as a narco-terrorist group.

He was extradited to the U.S. in November 2010.

A high-ranking Foreign Office minister bestowed the moniker “Merchant of Death” on Bout. The nickname was mentioned in Bout’s indictment by the US government.

Biden was Slammed as weak on Twitter.

Critics slammed the Biden administration’s deal to bring WNBA player Brittney Griner back to the United States after she was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison on drug-related charges.

In addition to critics claiming Russian President Vladimir Putin gained an advantage in this deal by regaining control of its “Merchant of Death,” they chastised Biden for failing to return U.S. Paul Whelan, a Marine veteran.

Whelan has been imprisoned in Russia since 2018 on espionage charges and is serving a 16-year sentence.

On Twitter, critics slammed the entire transaction, with some calling it the worst trade they’d ever seen.

In a Thursday morning tweet, Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy slammed the trade, writing, “This is great news until you Google Victor Bout and realizes Biden just got taken to the woodshed on this deal. This has to go down as the most lopsided trade in history. What happened to Griner was beyond f—-ed, but this feels like a short-sighted PR stunt.”

Sports journalist and conservative podcaster Jason Whitlock was not impressed with the trade either, commenting, “Help me wrap my mind around this Griner-for-Death trade.

Is this one of the lowest points in US foreign policy history, or am I exaggerating? Please provide some context: what compares? Bay of BIG 2.0?”

“While it’s nice that Griner is home,” former CIA member John Sipher tweeted, “we need to be honest. This is playing Putin’s game. Bout was an actual criminal charged through a credible legal process recognized worldwide. Griner was a hostage taken to extort us.”

RedState author Bonchie tweeted, “To accomplish this, you put a murderous arms dealer back on the street and left the US Marine who has been there three years out of the deal. Griner shouldn’t have been sentenced to nine years, but bragging like this? That’s pretty gross.”

National Review correspondent Jim Geraghty slammed President Biden’s tweet promoting the swap. He tweeted, “And all it cost the U.S. was putting the world’s most notorious arms dealer, with a near-ocean of blood on his hands, who equipped armies of child soldiers and sold weapons to al-Qaeda and the Taliban, back on the metaphorical streets.”

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