Since February, WNBA star Brittney Griner, has been held in custody in Russia on drug-related charges.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the Biden Administration has offered a “substantial proposal” so that Griner and another American, Paul Whelan, can return to the United States. Thus, Brittney could be coming home soon.
Blinken added that the offer was made weeks ago, and he would like to speak with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The two haven’t spoken since February 15.
“…I plan to raise an issue that is top priority for us. This is the release of Americans Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner, who’ve been wrongfully detained and must be allowed to come home.”
Blinken didn’t disclose any information on the details of the proposal. However, prisoner swap rumors have been circulating since Griner’s trial began.
One name that has gone around is Viktor Bout. He is a Russian arms dealer, called the “merchant of death.” He was sentenced to 25 years in the U.S. This was after he was convicted of conspiracy to kill U.S. residents and aiding terrorists groups.
Some diplomats have warned that making a deal like this could cause issues for tourists, and the proportionately with Bout isn’t the same. This is because Bout is a hardened terrorist, and it doesn’t seem to be a fair trade for Griner. Thus, it may lead to another situation, later, where another American is unjustly detained in the same country for leveraging intentions. This would be for “some major foreign policy asset that we hold of theirs.”
Earlier this month, Griner pleaded guilty to drug-smuggling charges, citing that she wasn’t trying to break Russian law. This was as she possessed vape cartridges that had oil derived from cannabis. Griner could be sentenced to 10 years in prison.
John Kirby, the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications expressed his thoughts, as well. “…we sure hope that the Russians will accept this proposal and that we can get these Americans back home to their families where they belong.”
In 2020, Whelan, a Michigan corporate security executive, was sentenced to 16 years in prison after being convicted of espionage. He and his family have adamantly stated that he is innocent. The U.S. government has declared that the charges against him weren’t valid.