Will Griner be swapped for a Russian arms dealer?

STORY: Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout may be a possible prisoner swap for U.S. basketball star Brittany Griner.

Russia and United States are exploring the exchange, a Russian deputy foreign minister was quoted as saying on Friday (November 18).

It would mark one of the more extraordinary swaps in the two countries' history.

The possible swap includes Griner and Paul Whelan, who is serving a 16-year sentence in Russia after being convicted of espionage charges that he denies.

Griner is facing nine years behind bars in Russia after being convicted on drug charges.

She has been transferred to a penal colony about 300 miles southeast of Moscow, according to her lawyers on Thursday (November 17).

After her trial, Griner said she had used cannabis for relief from sports injuries but had not meant to break the law by packing cartridges in her luggage.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitri Peskov said on Friday (November 18) Moscow always takes prisoner swap proposals with the United States seriously after Washington said it expected President Vladimir Putin to express a willingness to engage in talks.

Viktor Bout is variously dubbed "the merchant of death" and "the sanctions buster" for his ability to get around arms embargoes.

For almost two decades, Bout was one of the world's most notorious arms dealers, selling weaponry to rogue states, rebel groups, and murderous warlords in Africa, Asia, and South America.

But in 2008, Bout was snared in an elaborate U.S. sting.

He was tried on the charges related to Colombia's leftist FARC guerrillas, which he denied.

And in 2012 was convicted and sentenced by a court in Manhattan to 25 years in prison, the minimum sentence possible.

Ever since, the Russian state has been keen to get him back.