U.S. seeking Griner’s release; will Russia agree to exchange WNBA star for Russian prisoner?
The U.S. is seeking the release of Brittney Griner who’s been detained for 160 days, offering to swap Russian Arms trafficker Viktor Bout for the WNBA star
The Biden administration has offered a deal to Russia aimed at bringing back WNBA star Brittney Griner and another jailed American, Paul Whelan, in exchange for Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms trafficker serving a 25-year US prison sentence. So far, Russia has not commented on this.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Wednesday that he expects to speak with Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, for the very first time since Russia declared war on Ukraine. He also said that the U.S. government presented a “substantial proposal” to Moscow “weeks ago” for Griner and Whelan, who are classified as wrongfully detained.
U.S. government pushing for Griner’s release
The statement is the first time the U.S. has publicly revealed any action it has taken to defend the release of Griner, who has been in custody since February after Moscow airport officials allegedly found large amounts of cannabis oil in her luggage, while she was returning to play for Russia.
The two-time Olympic gold medallist and WNBA star has pleaded guilty to the drug charges against her. However, she also declared that she didn’t break the law deliberately, as she had packed her bags in a rush.
“I still don’t understand to this day how [the vape cartridges] ended up in my bags,” said after pleading guilty.
“With them being accidentally in my bags, I take responsibility, but I did not intend to smuggle or plan to smuggle anything into Russia.”
Griner faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of transporting drugs.