Roy Jones Jr—the legendary boxer who was awarded Russian citizenship by Vladimir Putin—claims he is working to secure the release of detained basketball star Brittney Griner from Russian detention.
Speaking to TMZ, Jones revealed that he is willing to “put his life on the line” to free Griner.
“Would I put my life on the line, take a chance to go to Russia to exchange prisoners? Yes, I would,” said Jones. “Because if [Brittney] was my daughter, I would want somebody to do the same thing for me.”
Jones was granted Russian citizenship by special decree in 2015 after meeting with Putin in occupied Crimea. The boxer joined the ranks of aging celebrities and retired athletes who have defected to Russia at Putin’s behest, including French actor Gerard Depardieu, a Russian citizen since 2013 following a tax dispute with the French government, MMA fighter Jeff Monson, and actor Steven Seagal, who has boasted his longstanding friendship with Putin for years.
Putin’s decision to hand Russian passports to notable American figures helps propagate his political agenda through American mouthpieces who are happy to praise Russia while criticizing the United States. This soft power strategy is little more than glorified publicity for the Russian president and his controversial government.
Jones is no different. He has defended Putin repeatedly, claiming that the Russian leader is “misunderstood” and that he is a “man’s man.” He has also taken part in Russia’s military propaganda parades dressed in military headgear and has also met with the likes of Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov.
However, Jones’ position as a Kremlin stooge may also make him an ideal candidate to draw attention to Griner’s case.
Arguably the greatest female basketball player of all time, Griner was detained in Moscow during the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on alleged drug charges, though there is little reason to believe the charges are legitimate. She has been kept in pre-trial detention for more than two months and currently remains in custody.
After speaking with his contacts, Jones believes Russia is angling for a prisoner exchange.
“I had a friend, a couple of my friends that I knew, I called and I asked him ‘Is there any way we can try to facilitate?’ because I don’t do politics,” Jones said. “My friend called me back and he said, ‘yes, they said they’d be willing to do a prisoner exchange.’ I said, ‘Well it’s probably rough because the prisoner exchange is probably a real prisoner.’”
Jones later added that his contact is someone closely affiliated with Putin himself.
“He’s the right-hand man to the office of Mr. Putin, so he’s high up on the political scheme.”
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