The release from Russian prison of WNBA star Brittney Griner has been greeted with general delight in the United States.

Announcing the deal that saw her freed on Dec. 8, 2022, President Joe Biden lauded the “painstaking and intense negotiations” that made it happen. Others may have legitimate concerns over the equivalence of the exchange, which saw convicted arms merchant Viktor Bout returned to Russia.

As a longtime scholar of Russian law, I believe the episode prompts a reflection on the application of Russian law in Griner’s case, and more broadly consideration about such exchanges in general.

The problem American negotiators face in such situations is that it matters whether the U.S. citizen is guilty of committing the crime alleged under foreign law or whether there has been a miscarriage of justice, incompetent investigation or prosecution, or false accusation.