Brittney Griner prisoner swap not the first with Russia

One of the first major prisoner exchanges with Russia took place in 1962. The exchange was depicted in the 2015 film The Bridge of Spies.

The US has offered Russia a deal aimed at bringing home WNBA star Brittney Griner and another jailed American, Paul Whelan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on July 27.

Griner was arrested at a Moscow airport on drug charges in February and has been in prison ever since. She is currently on trial and could face up to 10 years in prison. Whelan was arrested for espionage in 2018 and is currently serving a 16-year sentence in a Russian labor camp.

Following the announcement, Google Trends data showed that people searched for “prisoner swap with Russia” and “US prisoner swap with Russia,” suggesting people were searching for the history of prisoner swaps between the two countries.

The VERIFY team examined the history of prisoner exchanges between the US and Russia.


Has the US exchanged prisoners with Russia before?



This is true.

Yes, the US has exchanged prisoners with Russia before.

Government officials have not offered the Russians details of the proposed deal, although a person familiar with the matter said the US government offered to trade convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner.

While Russia has yet to publicly endorse a deal, American officials have expressed President Joe Biden’s hope of freeing imprisoned Americans.

“I will say that the President and his team are ready to take extraordinary steps to bring our people home, as we demonstrated with Trevor Reed, and that’s what we’re doing here. It’s actively happening now,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters on July 27.

in the April 2022, US Navy veteran Trevor Reed was brought back to the US in exchange for a Russian drug trafficker. Reed was traded in Turkey for Konstantin Yaroshenko, who was serving a 20-year sentence in a cocaine trafficking conspiracy case.

Before, in 2010the US released 10 Russian spies and in return the Russian government released three Russians who spied on behalf of the US or Britain and one Russian accused of being a double agent working for both Russia and the US works Russian spies had assimilated into American society (some using stolen identities).

“They got married, bought houses, raised children and got jobs – all while working for the Russian foreign intelligence agency,” the FBI said. The spy ring was the inspiration for the television show The Americans.

Twenty-five years earlier, in June 1985, the USA and the then Soviet Union agreed on what was then the largest prisoner exchange of all time. The US released three spies – one of whom was the famous Polish spy Marian Zacharski who stole military technology – in exchange for 23 people held by the Russians.

The first major prisoner exchange between Russia and the US was in 1962, with the then Soviet Union. The exchange took place on the Glienicke Bridge, which at the time connected East and West Germany.

The US let KGB spy Rudolf Abel fly in exchange for Luftwaffe pilot Capt. Francis Gary Powers, free. The KGB was the main security agency in the Soviet Union. After Powers’ plane was shot down during a reconnaissance mission, he was captured, convicted of espionage, and held by the Soviets until his exchange on February 10, 1962.

A biography of Powers from the National Air and Space Museum states: “Although Captain Powers was criticized at the time (some believed he should have died rather than be captured), documents declassified in 1998 show that he was following instructions, maintaining a cooperative attitude, did not release classified information and refused to denounce the United States of America. As a result, Russian intelligence did not receive vital information from him.”

The American Frederic Pryor, then a student in East German custody, was also released as part of this exchange.

So we can VERIFY that there is a long history of prisoner exchanges between Russia and the US

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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