Russia ‘digging trenches 40 miles behind frontline’ as it prioritises defence

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Russia is hopeful it can reach an agreement with the United States to return notorious Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout in a prisoner swap, it said on Friday, after US basketball star Brittney Griner was transferred to a penal colony.

“I would like to hope that the prospect [of an exchange] is not only still a topical issue, but that it is being strengthened, and the moment comes when we get a concrete agreement,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters in Moscow, according to state news agency RIA Novosti.

Ms Griner was arrested at a Moscow airport in February and handed nine years in prison for possessing vape cartridges with a small quantity of cannabis oil.

Her lawyers confirmed on Thursday she had been transferred to a penal colony in the central region of Mordovia to serve out her sentence.

Analysts believe that Griner could be traded for Bout, who is serving 25 years in prison on a 2012 conviction.

Another American jailed in Russia, retired US Marine Paul Whelan, is also slated for a possible exchange, observers say.

Read more: ‘Merchant of Death’ Viktor Bout offered by US for prisoner swap



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