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Tipsheet

Biden's 'Merchant of Death' Hostage Swap Just Crashed Into His Ukraine Policy

AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong, File

Speaking to reporters at the White House Monday afternoon, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan defended President Joe Biden's decision to swap "Merchant of Death" Viktor Bout, who was serving a lengthy prison sentence in the U.S. on a series of terrorism convictions, for American WNBA player Brittney Griner. With his new freedom back in Russia, Bout has vowed to join the Kremlin's fight against Ukraine, putting the move at odds with the Biden administration's policy and positions.

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Over the weekend President Joe Biden had a phone call with Ukrainian President Voldomer Zelensky. In the White House readout of the call, Bout's release was not mentioned as a discussion point between the two leaders. 

"President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., spoke today with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine to underscore ongoing U.S. support for Ukraine’s defense as Russia continues its assaults on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure. President Biden highlighted how the U.S. is prioritizing efforts to strengthen Ukraine’s air defense through our security assistance, including the December 9 announcement of $275 million in additional ammunition and equipment that included systems to counter the Russian use of unmanned aerial vehicles," the readout states. 

"President Biden also highlighted the November 29 announcement of $53 million to support energy infrastructure to strengthen the stability of Ukraine’s energy grid in the wake of Russia’s targeted attacks.  President Biden welcomed President Zelenskyy’s stated openness to a just peace based on fundamental principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter," the readout contiues. "He reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to continue providing Ukraine with security, economic, and humanitarian assistance, holding Russia accountable for its war crimes and atrocities, and imposing costs on Russia for its aggression."

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Meanwhile, Sullivan claimed the U.S. is doing everything possible to bring U.S. Marine Paul Whelan home from Russia. Whelan has been in a Russian prison since 2018. 

 

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