The American Prisoner in Russia Trapped Between Putin and Trump | The New Yorker

For all their uncertainty about the exact origins of the case, U.S. officials understood perfectly how the Kremlin wanted it resolved. Russia’s Ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, was “unbelievably explicit” in meetings with White House officials, according to the former U.S. official. Initially, Antonov proposed trading Whelan for three Russians in U.S. prisons: Maria Butina, a woman who had grown close to Republican operatives and National Rifle Association officials, and was convicted of acting as an unregistered Russian agent, in April, 2019; Viktor Bout, a notoriously prolific arms trader who was apprehended in a sting operation in Thailand, in 2008, and convicted by a U.S. court three years later; and Konstantin Yaroshenko, a pilot serving a twenty-year federal sentence for a drug-smuggling plot.

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