A lawyer for notorious Russia  “Merchant of Death” arms dealer Viktor Bout says he was “confident” the US and Russia will work out a deal to swap his client for WNBA star Brittney Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan.

According to reports, the White House has offered to trade the WNBA star and Mr. Whelan for the prisoned Bout, who is currently serving a 25-year sentence in the US.

Griner is currently on trial in Moscow for possessing marijuana; if found guilty, she may receive a 10-year term. Mr. Whelan was detained in Russia in 2018 on suspicion of espionage and is currently incarcerated for 16 years.

“I do have some information about the progress of how things are going … But that information comes from the Russian side as opposed to the American side,” Bout’s attorney Steve Zissou told CNN, “I’m confident this is going to get done. Look, it’s no secret they’ve been wanting him back for several years now. They’ve been trying to get him back for decades. That’s not something they’ve ever kept secret.”

Vadim Krasikov, a convicted killer and former Russian spy, was reportedly added to the Kremlin’s demand in any prospective agreement over the weekend, in the cable news site.

“I don’t know that that has happened,” Zissou said. “I know that there’s a lot of chatter out there. The thing that you have to understand about this kind of negotiation is there is always going to be some names put on the table back and forth, who we want, who we don’t want it. Look, it’s part of any prisoner exchange negotiation.”

Krasikov is serving a life sentence for the murder of former Chechen fighter, Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, in Berlin in 2019.

The attorney went on to say that he believed Russia would be willing to release Griner and Whelan in return for only Bout, but he objected to the host John Avlon’s depiction of his client as a “notorious international arms dealer.”

Former Soviet military commander Bout, 55, was detained in Bangkok in 2008 as part of a sting operation when US operatives pretended to be Colombian insurgents. Before being extradited to the US for prosecution, he was detained in Thailand for two years.

He was given a 25-year term by a US judge in April 2012 for attempting to supply heavy weapons to Colombian “rebels.”

During the meeting at a Bangkok hotel, Bout had agreed to supply 100 transportable surface-to-air missiles and about 5,000 AK-47 assault rifles to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

He had actually sat down with US Drug Enforcement Administration agents who were masquerading as members of the left-wing guerrilla organization that the US had classified as a terror organization.

The Russian government has demanded his release ever since he was found guilty. That might finally occur now, assisting in ensuring Ms. Griner and Mr. Whelan’s safe return to American land.

John Kirby, coordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council, stated to CNN on Monday that Russia should accept the initial proposal from the White House.

“This so-called, you call it a counteroffer, we would call it a bad faith attempt to avoid what is a serious proposal already on the table,” said Mr Kirby. “Holding two Americans who have been wrongfully detained hostage for a convicted murderer in a third country is just – we don’t consider that a serious counteroffer at all.

“It is nothing more than a bad faith attempt by the Russians publicly to avoid what is a serious proposal, one that we are not making detailed in public and has been on the books for several weeks and we urge the Russians to accept it.”

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Sources: Conservativebrief, CNN, Politico


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