A former adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that Moscow got the better of the prisoner swap that sent WNBA star Brittney Griner back to the United States for convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout.
“Putin outplayed Biden,” Sergei Markov wrote in a lengthy post on his Telegram channel.
Markov called Griner an “excellent athlete” and a “simple girl” but that Bout was more important to Russia. He added that prisoner swaps between Russia and the U.S. should favor Moscow.
“But the principle of exchange with Westerners should be like that,” he wrote. “Always in our favor.”
Griner, 32, had been in Russian custody for nearly 10 months before being freed. She was detained at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow on Feb. 17 after Russian authorities said she had vape cartridges with cannabis oil inside her luggage.
On Aug. 4, Griner was given a nine-year sentence after pleading guilty, arguing that she had been prescribed cannabis for her pain and inadvertently packed it. Her sentence was upheld in October, and she was later transferred to a penal colony.
Bout is known as the “Merchant of Death” because of his notoriety for running a fleet of aging Soviet-era cargo planes to conflict-ridden hotspots in Africa. His dealings inspired the Nicolas Cage film “Lord of War.”
He had been in U.S. custody since 2008 and was convicted in 2011 for conspiring to sell weapons for use to kill Americans. He was serving a 25-year federal prison sentence upon his release.
“Brittney will soon be back in the arms of her loved ones and she should have been there all along,” President Biden said Thursday. “This is a day we’ve worked toward for a long time. We never stopped pushing for her release.”
The swap has received much criticism as former Marine Paul Whelan is still being held in Russia despite the State Department maintaining that he is being unlawfully detained on spy charges.
Before she was convicted and incarcerated in Russia, Griner called for the National Anthem to be protested at WNBA games.
Fox News’ Ryan Gaydos contributed to this report.