The United States has offered Russia a prisoner exchange deal, in a bid to bring home two imprisoned Americans, including basketball star Brittney Griner.
The women’s NBA player was arrested at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow on February 17 as she returned to Russia to play for UMMC Yekaterinburg, during the US Women’s National Basketball Association offseason.
Police said they found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in his luggage.
Mrs grinning31 years old, imprisoned since, pleaded guilty on charges that could earn him a prison sentence of up to ten years.
But she testified at her trial for drug possession that an interpreter only translated a fraction of what was said while in custody and that officials told her to sign documents, but “no one told me.” explained anything”.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he would raise the issue of his detention and that of Paul Whelan – arrested in Russia in 2018 and charged with espionage – during a call next week with Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. Foreign Affairs.
Mr. Blinken and Sergei Lavrov have not spoken to each other since the start of the war in Ukraine.
The Secretary of State’s comments marked the first time the US government has publicly revealed any concrete steps it has taken to secure Ms Griner’s release.
He described the prisoner swap suggestion as a “substantial proposal” adding: “Our governments have repeatedly and directly communicated on this proposal, and I will use the conversation to follow up personally and hopefully to move us towards a resolution.”
Who is Brittney Griner and why is she being held?
Mr Blinken did not provide details of the deal offered to the Russians, but US officials have suggested it is similar to the prisoner swap that secured the release of Navy veteran Trevor Reed in April.
Russia has made no secret of his wish that convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout be released from US prison and officials are not ruling out that Bout’s release is on the table.
Once described as a “merchant of death”, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2012 for conspiring to illegally sell millions of dollars in weapons.
President Joe Bidenwho authorized the Reed prisoner exchange after meeting with his parents, signed the proposed deal in the Griner/Whelan case, officials said.
John Kirby, a White House national security spokesman, said: “The President and his team are prepared to take extraordinary measures to bring them home.”
Mr. Whelan, a former U.S. Navy and corporate security official from Michigan, was sentenced in 2020 to 16 years in prison for espionage.
He and his family have vigorously asserted his innocence. The US government has denounced the charges as false.
Ms Griner admitted in court that she had vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage when she arrived in Moscow in February, but argues she had no criminal intent and packed the cartridges by mistake because she was in a hurry.