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Trump’s former national security advisor sees Bout-for-Griner swap as American surrender

The US administration is coming under criticism from domestic political opponents, who consider the swap unequal

NEW YORK, December 8./TASS/. Former National Security Advisor to President Donald Trump John Bolton sees as "an American surrender" the exchange of Russian national Viktor Bout, who was serving a prison term in the US on arms trafficking charges, for American basketball player Brittney Griner found guilty in Russia of drug smuggling.

"The Bout-for-Griner prisoner swap is not a trade, it’s an American surrender. This is not what American strength looks like," John Bolton wrote on Twitter, adding that Washington’s ill-wishers "are smiling".

The US administration is coming under criticism from domestic political opponents, who consider the swap unequal. They also blame President Joe Biden for not putting on the exchange list Paul Whelan, convicted of espionage in Russia, who has been in prison much longer than Griner and who is a former US Marine.

Earlier on Thursday, the Russian Foreign Ministry reported that Russian citizen Viktor Bout was returning to Russia as a result of an agreement with the US to exchange him for American basketball player Brittney Griner.

Brittney Griner, a US basketball star, was arrested in Russia in February 2022 on charges of attempting to smuggle drugs into the country. She flew to Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport from New York, where upon arrival, two cartridges with cannabis oil were found in her luggage during baggage inspection. According to an expert review, the substance was cannabis oil, which qualifies as a narcotic substance. The court sentenced her to nine years in a penal colony.

As a member of the United States national women’s team, Griner won gold medals at the 2014 and 2018 World Championships, as well as at the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games. Before her arrest, she played for Russia’s Yekaterinburg professional basketball club.

Viktor Bout was detained in Thailand’s capital of Bangkok in 2008 under a warrant issued by a local court at the behest of the US. He was charged with illegally supplying weapons to a rebel group known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which is designated as a terrorist organization by the US. Bout was extradited to the United States two years later. In April 2012, he was sentenced to 25 years in jail and slapped with a $15-million fine.