Saudi Arabia and the UAE announced on Thursday the success of their efforts to mediate the exchange of two prisoners between the United States and Russia, according to a press statement issued jointly by the two Arab Gulf states’ foreign ministries.
The statement was published by the Emirates News Agency, WAM, and its Saudi counterpart, SPA. It gave credit to UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and Saudi Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman, who is considered to be the kingdom’s de facto ruler.
The statement pointed out that Abu Dhabi on Thursday received Brittney Griner, a US citizen, via a private jet coming from Moscow after the Russian authorities released her, as well as Viktor Bout, a Russian citizen, who also arrived on a private plane coming from Washington after the US authorities released him.
“The American and Russian sides took custody of their citizens, in preparation for their transfer to their countries,” SPA reported, citing the two countries’ joint statement.
Earlier on Thursday, US officials said that Moscow had released the American basketball player Brittney Griner as part of a prisoner exchange deal wherein Washington was releasing Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout (who was serving a 25-year prison sentence), according to the Associated Press.
Griner, a 31-year-old player in the US Basketball Association, was arrested last February after the Russian authorities said that they had found marijuana oil (a plant drug) in her possession.
Last July, Griner pleaded guilty to drug charges, but she stressed that she used medical cannabis to treat pain, denying any intention to violate Russian law.