Bout says Griner ‘wanted to shake my hand’ on airport tarmac

Viktor Bout, the convicted Russian arms dealer who was a part of the U.S.-Russia prisoner for WNBA star Brittney Griner, said the star athlete “wanted to shake” his hand as they were passing each other on the Abu Dhabi airport tarmac. 

In an interview with Russian state media outlet RT published Saturday, Bout said he wished Griner good luck and she extended her hand to him. 

“She wanted to shake my hand,” Bout told RT in the interview. “You could feel that she was really positive.”

“Again, it’s our tradition. You should wish everyone good fortune and happiness,” Bout added, according to Reuters. 

An video circulated by Russian media last week showed both Griner and Bout walking past each other, with one of the three men accompanying Griner going over to shake hands and hug Bout as both parties went their separate ways. 

Bout, who spent the last 14 years in prison, also spoke about American politics and the war in Ukraine in the wide-ranging interview with RT.

He compared President Biden and former President Trump to “Coke Zero and Diet Pepsi” when asked which politician he would prefer to be in the White House, adding that he did not believe partisan divisions would lead to a revolution in America.

Bout also told RT that he would join Russian’s war against neighboring Ukraine, saying “If I had the chance and the required skills, I’d join up as a volunteer.”

The Griner-Bout prisoner swap came after months of lobbying by Griner’s family, friends, the WNBA and athletes across the U.S. sports spectrum.

It has led members of the Republican party to criticize the administration for releasing a notorious criminal and failing to negotiate the release of former U.S. Marine Paul Whalen, who has been jailed in Russia for years.

Griner, who plays professionally for the WNBA’s Pheonix Mercury, was serving an eight-year sentence at a Russian penal colony after being found guilty of possessing Cannabis oil at a Moscow airport in February. 

Roger Carstens, special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that Griner was very talkative on the flight home, making a personal connections with each crew member on the flight.

“We talked about everything under the sun,” Carstens said. “I was left with the impression that this is an intelligent, passionate, compassionate, humble, interesting person, a patriotic person, but, above all, authentic.”

Tags Brittney Griner Brittney Griner Brittney Griner detention Prisoner swap Russia Russia Today U.S.-Russia relations United States Viktor Bout

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