Roy Jones Jr is hoping his friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin will help secure the release of detained basketball star Brittney Griner.
Jones Jr, who was personally awarded Russian citizenship by Putin in 2015, recently revealed his plans to get involved in Griner’s case if the United States and Russia fail to reach a diplomatic solution.
“Right now, I’m hearing they’re trying to do a prisoner swap,” Jones told LVSportsBiz.com. “If they do the prisoner swap, that will be good. If the prisoner swap does not work then you have to understand that I’m a diplomatic type of person. I don’t get into politics, but my friends are my friends.”
In February 2022, Griner was detained by Russian customs after being discovered with vaporizer cartridges containing less than a gram of hashish oil were found in her luggage. She was arrested on drug charges and pled guilty during her trial. In August, the court sentenced Griner to nine years in prison, along with a fine of 1 million rubles (roughly $16,300).
Last month, Russia’s foreign ministry revealed it was engaging in “quiet diplomacy” with the U.S. regarding a potential prisoner swap that would include Griner. However, Russia has also acknowledged its intention to secure the “Merchant of Death” Viktor Bout as part of the deal. The convicted arms dealer is serving a 25-year sentence for conspiring to kill Americans in 2011. Consequently, it remains unclear whether the U.S. will be willing to return Bout to Russian soil.
If all else fails, Jones intends to speak with Putin himself in order to secure Griner’s release.
“If this doesn’t work I will go to Mr. Putin myself,” Jones said.
Since becoming a Russian citizen in 2015, Jones has been more than happy to become a propaganda mouthpiece for the Kremlin. He has repeatedly defended Putin, claiming that the Russian leader is “misunderstood” and 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.
Yet despite Jones’ transformation from American boxing legend to Kremlin stooge, he believes he is an ideal candidate to speak up for Griner’s release.
“I feel like because of my relationship knowing Putin like that, I owe it to her and her family, to my country here to go ask him if she’ll get out with a prisoner swap,” Jones said.
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