Russian state media and lawmakers praised President Vladimir Putin after Moscow sent WNBA star Brittney Griner to the U.S. for convicted Russian arms dealer Vitkor Bout, hailing the prisoner swap as a “capitulation by America.”
Russian state TV host Yevgeny Popov wrote on his Telegram account that the life of Bout, who arrived back in Russia late last night — “is only beginning,” according to Reuters.
“Everyone will forget about Griner tomorrow,” Popov added.
Maria Butina, who served 18 months in a U.S. prison after being convicted of acting as an unregistered foreign agent, called the prisoner swap “a capitulation by America.”
“It shows that Russia doesn’t abandon its own while America has shown its defeat,” Butina — who is now a Russian lawmaker — said, according to Reuters. “Russia did not forget him.”
Russian state media also described Putin as “winning” the exchange with the U.S., Reuters added.
Russian officials have long pushed for the release of Bout, who was serving a 25-year sentence in U.S. prison after being convicted in 2011 of conspiracy to kill Americans, conspiracy to deliver anti-aircraft missiles and aiding a terrorist organization.
He was nabbed in 2008 in a sting operation at a luxury hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, where he met with Drug Enforcement Administration informants who were posing as officials with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which has been classified by U.S. officials as a narco-terrorist group
Prosecutors said that Bout was prepared to provide the group with $20 million worth of “a breathtaking arsenal of weapons — including hundreds of surface-to-air missiles, machine guns and sniper rifles — 10 million rounds of ammunition and five tons of plastic explosives.”
Fox News’ Paul Best, Caitlin McFall and The Associated Press contributed to this report.