Viktor Bout, the arms dealer freed in a prisoner swap for US basketball star Brittney Griner, said he wished him luck on the tarmac in Abu Dhabi where they were swapped.
Bout, who spent 14 years in prison in the United States for arms trafficking, money laundering and conspiracy to kill Americans, was traded on Thursday for the basketball star, jailed this year for bringing cannabis vaping oil when arriving to play for a Russian team.
Russia’s FSB security service released footage of the pair passing each other on the tarmac at Abu Dhabi airport during the exchange, though the video cuts out and there is no footage showing them in train to interact.
“I wished her luck, she even kind of extended her hand to me,” Bout said on Saturday in an interview with Russian state broadcaster RT.
“Again, it’s our tradition. You should wish everyone good luck and happiness,” he said, adding that he thought Griner “was positively inclined” towards him.
Speaking to Maria Butina, who herself spent 14 months in prison in the US for acting as an unregistered Russian agent and is now a lawmaker and RT presenter, Bout praised the president Vladimir Putin, whose portrait he said hung on his cell wall.
Asked about Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, Bout said he wished Moscow could have launched it sooner.
“If I had the chance and the skills, I would volunteer,” he said.
Griner has yet to speak publicly. His wife, Cherelle Griner, said Thursday that their family is now “whole” and that the couple will work to help secure the release of other Americans detained abroad, including former US Marine Paul Whelan, imprisoned in Russia. for espionage charges which he denies.