US basketball star Brittney Griner back in United States following prisoner swap

Prisoner exchange is not a sign of improving US-Russia relations, says Moscow

US basketball star Brittney Griner has returned to the United States after being freed in a high-profile prisoner exchange following nearly 10 months in detention in Russia.

Ms Griner was released in exchange for the notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

The plane carrying her touched down at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas, and Ms Griner was later seen disembarking from the aircraft.

The deal achieved a top goal for US president Joe Biden but failed to win freedom for another American, Paul Whelan, who has been jailed in Russia for nearly four years.

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The Kremlin said on Friday that the prisoner exchange deal to swap Bout for Ms Griner should not be seen as a step towards improving bilateral relations between Moscow and Washington.

“The talks were exclusively on the topic of the exchange. It’s probably wrong to draw any hypothetical conclusions that this may be a step towards overcoming the crisis in bilateral relations,” the Tass news agency quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying.

“Bilateral relations continue to remain in a sorry state,” he added.

Bout feels terrible after his long prisoner swap journey and his family expects that the United States will hand over his documents and drawings to the Russian embassy, Tass reported, citing his wife.

She said Bout was “exhausted” and hadn’t slept for three days. “I hope that all his documents and drawings will be handed over to the Russian Embassy soon,” she said.

Alla Bout also said she was grateful for how the Americans treated her husband during the prisoner exchange.

“He said he was grateful to the American side for feeding him. He said he hasn’t eaten as much for the last 12 years. He was treated well, with respect, he wasn’t shackled or in handcuffs.”

Bout landed in Russia on Thursday evening following the most high-profile prisoner swap between Russia and the United States for years.

In 2012, a US court sentenced him to 25 years on arms dealing charges following his arrest in Thailand after an undercover operation by US agents. – Agencies