ESPN Exclusive: Interview with Russian “Merchant of Death” Viktor Bout on Brittney Griner, prisoner swap, arms case


ESPN Exclusive: Interview with Russian “Merchant of Death” Viktor Bout on Brittney Griner, prisoner swap, arms case

Viktor Bout, who was exchanged for WNBA star Brittney Griner in a dramatic prisoner swap in December, has spoken with ESPN in his first U.S. media interview since he was released from prison. The interview with the man known as the Russian “Merchant of Death” debuted today on

Bout spoke exclusively with ESPN investigative reporter T.J. Quinn via Zoom from Russia, addressing questions about Griner, his conviction in 2011 on felony counts including conspiracy to kill Americans, and how he became part of the highest-profile prisoner exchange since the Cold War.

Griner pleaded guilty to drug charges, saying she accidentally packed vape cartridges with oil derived from cannabis in her backpack She was sentenced to nine years in Russian prison.

In Quinn’s recent interview, Bout:

  • Describes how he followed Griner’s case while in Federal prison in Illinois.
  • Explains how he learned he was being released and exchanged for Griner.
  • Describes his brief meeting with Griner during the airport tarmac exchange in Abu Dhabi.
  • Shares his thoughts on the outrage in the U.S. on the crimes he was convicted of.
  • Describes how he could identify with and feel sympathy for Griner as a “pawn.”
  • Explains why he agreed to his first U.S. media interview with ESPN.

Quinn was ESPN’s lead reporter on the Griner case during her imprisonment in Russia that lasted from February to December of 2022. The Bout interview is part of his continuing coverage of the case.

Griner’s final game of the WNBA season with the Phoenix Mercury is Sunday vs. the Las Vegas Aces (3 p.m. ET, ESPN2) – the same day Bout is up for election in a local Russian legislature.


Media contact: [email protected]

Andy Hall

My main responsibility is PR/Communications for ESPN’s news platforms including the Enterprise/Investigative Unit, the E60 program and SportsCenter. In addition, I’m the PR contact for ESPN’s Formula 1 coverage, golf majors (the Masters and PGA Championship) and TGL golf. I’m based in Daytona Beach, Fla., and have been with ESPN since 2006.
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