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The Biden administration has made an offer to the Russian government for the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan.
“We put a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Wednesday at the State Department.
Blinken shared that he is preparing for talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov “in the coming days” about the proposal but stopped short of detailing the proposed swap. “Our government has communicated repeatedly and directly on that proposal, and I’ll use the conversation to follow up personally and, I hope, move us toward a resolution,” Blinken said.
Earlier this month, Griner pleaded guilty to carrying hashish oil into Russia “inadvertently.”
“I’d like to plead guilty, your honor. But there was no intent. I didn’t want to break the law,” Griner told the judge.
There has already been widespread speculation that Moscow could use the two-time Griner to negotiate the release of a high-profile Russian citizen in U.S. custody. For more than four years, the Kremlin has been attempting to bargain for the release of arms trafficker Viktor Bout.
Griner’s wife made a plea to Biden, urging him to obtain the athlete’s release as soon as possible.
Amid the public outcry, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned the U.S. not to make a fuss in the media. According to Ryabov, the remarks made by the U.S. government about Russia’s judicial system, “makes it difficult to engage in detailed discussion of any possible exchanges.”
“The persistence with which the U.S. administration … describes those who were handed prison sentences for serious criminal articles and those who are awaiting the end of the investigation and court verdicts as ‘wrongfully detained’ reflects Washington’s refusal to have a sober view of the outside world,” he added.