The U.S. has offered Russia a deal in order to get Brittney Griner released, per CNN. The Biden administration has offered to exchange Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms trafficker who is currently serving a 25-year US prison sentence, for two Americans Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan. Whelan was arrested in Russia in 2018 and was accused of spying. In 2020, Whelan received a 16-year Russian prison sentence.
Sources told the outlet that the plan to release Bout, Griner, and Whelan received President Joe Biden’s backing after being under discussion for several months. CNN reports that the “Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Wednesday that the US presented a ‘substantial proposal’ to Moscow ‘weeks ago’ for Whelan and Griner, who are classified as wrongfully detained.”
However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday (July 28), “so far, there is no agreement on this issue.”
Blinken said Biden was “directly involved” and signed off on the proposal to release Griner and Whelan. Blinken could not confirm that Bout was a part of the deal and that he “can’t and won’t get into any of the details of what we proposed to the Russians over the course of so many weeks now.” He added that “in terms of the President, of course he was not only directly involved, he signs off on any proposal that we make, and certainly when it comes to Americans who are being arbitrarily detained abroad, including in this specific case.”
Griner testified in court Wednesday (July 27) stating that, “I do understand charges against me, I do take responsibility for them being in my bag, but I didn’t plan on bringing anything to Russia.”
The next hearing scheduled for Griner will happen on August 2.