Saudis, UAE Take Credit for Brittney Griner Prisoner Swap Between US and Russia

TOPSHOT - US Women National Basketball Association's (WNBA) basketball player Brittney Griner, who was detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, leaves the courtroom before the court's final decision in Khimki outside Moscow, on August 4, 2022. - Russian prosecutors requested that US basketball …
KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed issued a statement taking credit on Thursday for allegedly negotiating the prisoner swap that released basketball player Brittney Griner and notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, known as the “merchant of death.”

“The [two countries] said 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,” a joint Saudi-United Arab Emirates (UAE) statement read, according to Saudi news outlet al-Arabiya. “They also highlighted the important role played by the leaderships of the two brotherly countries in promoting dialogue between all parties.”

Al Arabiya news reported MBS and Zayed personally led the mediation efforts.

The swap reportedly took place in the presence of UAE and Saudi Arabia “specialists” who securely guided the swap on the ground.

Riyadh recently took credit for a similar prisoner exchange in September that resulted in Russia releasing 215 Ukrainian prisoners and ten foreigners, including Americans, fighting on Ukraine’s behalf. The Ukrainians agreed to free 55 Russian soldiers and pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk.

MBS publicly recognized himself as instrumental to the swap, a claim seemingly backed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who thanked the crown prince publicly.

SHARM EL SHEIKH, EGYPT - NOVEMBER 07: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY â MANDATORY CREDIT - "ROYAL COURT OF SAUDI ARABIA / HANDOUT" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) Mohammed Bin Salman, Prime Minister and Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia attends the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, more commonly known as COP27, at the Sharm El Sheikh International Convention Centre, in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt on November 07, 2022. The UN's COP27 climate summit kicked off in Egypt with warnings against backsliding on efforts to cut emissions and calls for rich nations to compensate poor countries after a year of extreme weather disasters. (Photo by Royal Court of Saudi Arabia/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

SHARM EL SHEIKH, EGYPT – NOVEMBER 07: Mohammed Bin Salman, Prime Minister and Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia attends the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, more commonly known as COP27, at the Sharm El Sheikh International Convention Centre, in Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt on November 07, 2022. The UN’s COP27 climate summit kicked off in Egypt with warnings against backsliding on efforts to cut emissions and calls for rich nations to compensate poor countries after a year of extreme weather disasters. (Photo by Royal Court of Saudi Arabia/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The relationship between MBS and Zelensky proved helpful to the Saudi government in October, when the Biden administration, outraged by OPEC+’s decision to cut oil production by 2 million barrels a day, accused the Saudis of attempting to aid the Russian invasion.

In the spring, two top Biden administration officials from the State Department and National Security Council reportedly tried to create a “clandestine, two-part arrangement” with Saudi Arabia to reduce the price of gas. That plan reportedly failed and the Saudis cut production anyway.

Following the accusations in October, Zelensky conspicuously called MBS and publicly thanked him.

“Spoke to Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman. Thanked for supporting Ukraine’s territorial integrity, resolution at the UN General Assembly,” Zelensky wrote on Twitter at the time.

Zelensky added Ukraine and Saudi Arabia would continue the negotiations of prisoner swaps between Russia and Ukraine.

“We agreed to interact in the release of [Ukrainian] prisoners of war. We agreed on the provision of [Saudi] macro-financial aid to Ukraine,” he said.

Follow Wendell Husebø on Twitter @WendellHusebø. He is the author of Politics of Slave Morality.

COMMENTS

Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.