Russia arrests German for carrying cannabis gummy bears

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The gummy bears packaging, six gummy bears and a German passportImage source, Russian Federal Tax Service/Telegram

A 38-year-old German man was arrested at St Petersburg airport after Russian customs found gummy bear sweets containing cannabis in his luggage.

Border officials noticed the sweets, which they described as “pungent-smelling”, in a packet decorated with a marijuana leaf.

The man is accused of drug smuggling and faces up to seven years in prison.

The arrest comes amid discussion of a possible prisoner swap deal between Washington and the Kremlin.

Moscow is hoping to negotiate the release of a Russian citizen jailed in Germany for murder.

In an interview last week with US journalist Tucker Carlson, Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed long-standing rumours that the Kremlin was considering a prisoner swap with Vadim Krasikov, who was jailed in Germany after murdering a Chechen dissident in a park in Berlin in 2019.

Berlin has not commented on whether it would be prepared to swap Krasikov for an American citizen.

A video released by Russian officials shows the German man taking off his rucksack to be searched and repeatedly saying “they are wine gums”, when asked by a Russian customs inspector about the six bear-shaped sweets.

A test showed that the sweets contained tetrahydrocannabinol, a psychoactive substance banned in Russia.

Cannabis gummies, along with other so-called edibles, are legal in many US states, but are prohibited in some European countries, including Germany and the UK.

According to a statement from Russian customs, the man explained he had bought the cannabis gummies in Germany, where they can be used for medical purposes, and uses them on long flights to help him sleep. He had come to Russia from Hamburg, flying via Istanbul, to visit a woman he had met online.

Germany’s Foreign Ministry has said the government is in contact with the man’s lawyers.

The case is reminiscent of the arrest of the American professional basketball player Brittney Griner in February 2022.

She was sentenced to nine years in prison for drug smuggling after a small amount of cannabis oil was found in a vaporiser cartridge in her hand luggage at a Moscow airport. She had been prescribed medical cannabis in the US.

Western officials accuse Russia of using imprisoned foreign citizens as bargaining chips in prisoner swaps.

This is in fact what happened to Brittney Griner, who was released at the end of 2022 in a prisoner swap with the US in return for the controversial Russian arms dealer Victor Bout.

Washington is currently negotiating for the release of two Americans, journalist Evan Gershkovich and former US Marine Paul Whelan, who are in Russian jails accused of spying.

Western officials describe the charges as trumped up.

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