‘Merchant of Death’ reveals what he told Brittney Griner during their transfer


Notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout has revealed what he told WNBA star Brittney Griner during their exchange last December.

In an ESPN interview published Friday, Bout, known as the “Merchant of Death,” described exactly how the exchange occurred and what he said to Griner during it.

“So they put the two planes together, and then gave a short instruction, went down, and here you are. Somebody showed up from Russian side saying hi, [asking if] everything is fine, I said yes. So he identified me, and then a couple minutes afterward, the exchange literally happened,” he recounted.

Immediately, I was little shocked of seeing her without her signature braids. She was way taller than me, and I just shake her hand and said, you know, I wish you good luck, and we both went to our planes,” he added.

Listen to the full interview below:


As previously reported, Griner was sentenced to nine years in Russian prison last year after she was caught bringing what is essentially liquid marijuana (vapable marijuana) into the country.


Following her sentencing, the Biden administration began negotiating with Russia to secure her release. Eventually, the administration reached a deal whereby it’d exchange Bout for her.

The exchange occurred on Dec. 8th of 2022, prompting anger from critics for several key reasons, including the fact that the administration was willing to give up a very notorious figure for a basketball player.

During the ESPN interview this week, Bout addressed this anger.

“Well, think of this, that the same outrage was in Russia when I was sentenced to 25 years. Many people would say, ‘For what? Just for talking? Are you serious?’” he said.

“There is not even a proper translation to Russian of the crime of conspiracy. We don’t have such even the legal term, So, this is this same kind of outrage in Russia about my case and about many other cases,” he added.

Judging by the response on Twitter/X to his remarks, it doesn’t seem many Americans see eye to eye with this equivalency:

As for the crime he was accused of committing, he claimed he’d never intended to sell the weapons and suggested he was just used as a pawn. As such, he identifies strongly with Griner.

“Of course, I feel, you know, bad or sorry for any person who’s going to be used as a pawn, despite whether they committed something or not. Publicity is a, like, multiplying factor which can really kill you if you are not strong enough to handle it,” he said of her sentencing.

Bout further said he knew about her past — which involved briefly playing for a Russian team — and learned about her arrest and imprisonment from watching TV in jail.

“In the United States, I guess only lazy would not cover her trial. Every talking radio host, every news station, every TV station, their newscast [was on Griner]… so this was a big deal, I guess, especially in jail,” he said.

“Look, the first thing I heard is exactly what CNN or other channels would push. And then, of course, your channel, ESPN, was very big on it, daily talking about Britney Griner and a possible exchange with me,” he added.

As for the exchange itself, Bout didn’t get final confirmation that he’d finally be exchanged (i.e., released) until the very morning of the exchange itself when the guards knocked on his cell and told him to start picking up his things.

“Then, I realized, yes, I’m going home,” he recalled.


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Vivek Saxena
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