Weed-smuggler WNBA player Brittney Griner spent about 10 months in a Russian prison before being brought back to the U.S. in exchange for Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms dealer serving a 25-year sentence.
The swap stirred controversy among Americans who believed the exchange favored Griner too much. Griner had previously faced criticism for her stance on the national anthem at sporting events but has since altered her position.
Many Americans also thought Griner’s nine-year jail sentence for drug charges was way too harsh.
Bout compared his sentence in the U.S. to Griner’s sentence in his homeland, saying it was “the same outrage … in Russia when I was sentenced to 25 years.
“Many people would say ‘For what? Just for talking? Are you serious?’” Bout said in an interview with ESPN. “There is not even a proper translation to Russian of the term of conspiracy. We don’t have such even the legal term. So, this is the same kind of outrage in Russia about my case and about many other cases.”
Bout and Griner were swapped for one another in December.
“So, they put the two planes together, give us some instruction, went down, and here you are,” Bout said. “Somebody showed up from Russian side saying, ‘Hi, is everything fine?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ So he identified me, and then couple minutes afterwards, the exchange literally happened.
“Admittedly, I was a little shocked seeing her without her signature braids. She was way taller than me. I just shake the hand, I said to her, ‘I wish you good luck.’ And we both went to our planes,” he said.