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UAE and Saudi Arabia instrumental in prisoner exchange between US and Russia
9 December 2022
The governments of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia confirmed on Thursday a joint role in facilitating the prisoner exchange between the United States and Russia, leading to the release of US basketball star Brittney Griner after nearly nine months in detention.
Griner, 32, who was arrested in Russia in February on drug charges, and Viktor Bout, 55, who was serving a 25-year sentence in a US prison, were exchanged at an airport in Abu Dhabi.
In a statement, the UAE and Saudi foreign affairs ministries said the mediation was led by UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed and Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman.
"The success of the mediation efforts was a reflection of the mutual and solid friendship between their two countries and the United States of America and the Russian Federation," the statement read.
The statement confirmed that following her release by Russia, Abu Dhabi received on Thursday Griner by private plane from Moscow. Another plane arrived from the United States to the UAE carrying Russian citizen Victor Bout, an arms dealer convicted in the United States. Officials from the UAE and Saudi Arabia were present at the airbase.
The source confirmed that Abu Dhabi and Riyadh facilitated the "details of the exchange," but stressed that the negotiations on the release were strictly handled by Moscow and Washington.
US President Joe Biden thanked the UAE on Thursday for helping Griner return home from Russia.
“I also want to the thank the UAE for helping us facilitate Brittney’s return, cause that’s where she landed,” the US president said.