The U.S. government has offered a deal to Russia for the release of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, another American jailed in the country, ESPN reports. This is the first time the Biden administration has shared a public plan regarding its efforts to bring Griner home.
The U.S. has offered Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer known as the “Merchant of Death,” in exchange for Griner, CNN reports. Bout was sentenced to 25 years in prison after allegedly planning to sell millions of dollars in weapons illegally.
Despite the offer, officials have refrained from releasing additional details on the “substantial offer.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken shared that he has requested to speak with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The offer was proposed to Russia weeks ago, and now Washington is hoping for a response from Moscow. Officials say the request to speak with the Russian foreign minister is primarily because the Biden administration wants an answer on the offer, though it’s not the sole item on the call’s agenda.
Blinken also plans to discuss Russia participating in a deal spearheaded by the UN to release multiple tons of Ukrainian grain from storage and will issue a warning of what’s at stake.
Whelan, a corporate security executive from Michigan, was sentenced to 16 years in prison on espionage charges in Russia two years ago. His family has expressed that he’s innocent, and the U.S. government has deemed the charges against him as false.
While appearing in court on Wednesday, Griner explained that she doesn’t know how the cannabis oil ended up in her bag, CBS News reports.
As Blavity previously reported, the cannabis was not for recreational use, but for injuries the basketball star had sustained. She said that she was pulled aside in the airport and that the language interpreter only translated a fraction of what she was being told by Russian airport authorities.
If found guilty on drug transportation charges, Griner could spend 10 years in a Russian prison.