Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout's attorney has weighed in on ongoing US-Russia negotiations to free detained Americans Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan. Attorney Steve Zissou told CNN he is "confident" there will be a prisoner swap centered on his client being release. Zissou cited information from "the Russian side, as opposed to the American side" - but without providing any details.
"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," Zissou said, further voicing that he hopes Russia will agree to a trade solely for Bout.
But this is precisely the possible hold-up behind a hugely controversial deal...within recent days there have been unverified reports the Russian side is asking for more, despite Bout having been convicted in a New York federal court on terrorism charges (and given 25-years), after a years-long extradition process from Thailand when he was first arrested in 2008. Thus he's without doubt a "high value" prisoner.
This was followed by further anonymously sourced reports citing Moscow as saying the US offer to get Griner and Whelan back is so far considered "unequal". Of course, the irony looming large in the background is that in Griner's case (which is where most of the media attention has been focused), she merely got caught with cannabis cartridges, a violation of Russian law... compare this to Bout being an international arms trafficker accused of responsibility for the deaths of Americans.
According to the latest via Politico, talks are still at a stalemate, it appears:
In a separate Monday interview with CNN, National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby declined to confirm reports that Russia delivered a counter offer asking former Russian Col. Vadim Krasikov to be added to the swap.
But he did say Russia made a counter offer in "a bad-faith attempt to avoid a serious proposal."
The White House press secretary later on Monday confirmed Russia made a "counter offer" that the US doesn't see as "serious"...
“We don’t see it as a serious counteroffer.”— The Recount (@therecount) August 1, 2022
— White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre responds to Russia reportedly asking to add convicted murderer Vadim Krasikov to the prisoner swap for WNBA star Brittney Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan pic.twitter.com/QN32MnXUAp
So at this point the US side is confirming that Russia indeed added another prisoner that it desires released during so far failed negotiations.
Vadim Krasikov is currently locked up in Germany after what's believed a Russian intelligence-ordered assassination of a former Chechen militant commander living abroad:
Russia wants a convicted murderer to be included in US prisoner swap that would see 'Merchant of Death' Viktor Bout traded for Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.— Paul Goward (@PaulGoward) July 30, 2022
Russian officials requested for a convicted murder and Kremlin spy Vadim Krasikov (pictured) to be released pic.twitter.com/wV9rnkzBHj
On Friday Secretary of State Antony Blinken held an unprecedented (given the ongoing Ukraine war) phone call with Russian FM Sergey Lavrov. In the 25-minute call there was no talk of ceasefire in Ukraine, and details were scant on possible agreements for the potential bilateral prisoner exchange.