In an attempt to bring back two Americans in prison, the US offered Russia a prisoner exchange deal. This was done in order to Brittney Griner, a basketball star.
Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow was used to arrest the Women’s NBA player. She was returning to Russia to play for UMMC Yekaterinburg during the US Women’s National Basketball Association off-season.
According to police, she had vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her bag.
She testified that she was only partially translated by an interpreter while she was held and that officials instructed her to sign documents but that “no one explained anything to me.”
Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, said that he would bring up both her detention as well as that of Paul Whelan, who was arrested in Russia in 2018 and charged with spying – during a phone call next week to Russia’s foreign minister.
Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Sergei Lavrov and Mr Blinken have not spoken.
The comments by the Secretary of State marked the first public disclosure of concrete actions taken by the US government to free Ms Griner.
He called the prisoner swap proposal a “substantial proposition” and added: “Our governments communicated repeatedly, directly on that proposal. I’ll use this conversation to follow-up personally and, hopefully, to move us towards a solution.”
Although Mr Blinken didn’t provide details about the deal, officials from the US suggested that it was similar to the prisoner exchange that led to the release of Marine Veteran Trevor Reed in April.
Russiahas made it clear that Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms dealer, is wanted out of American prison. Officials would not rule Bout out.
He was once referred to as the “Merchant of Death” and sentenced to 25-years in prison for conspiring to illegally sell weapons worth millions of dollars.
Officials said that President Joe Biden authorized the Reed prisoner swap following a meeting with his parents. He also signed off on the Griner/Whelan deal.
John Kirby, White House spokesperson for national security, stated that the president and his team were willing to take extraordinary measures to bring them home.
In 2020, Mr Whelan was sentenced to 16 years imprisonment on espionage convictions. He is a former US Marine and corporate security officer from Michigan.
His family and he vigorously defended his innocence. The US government denies the accusations.
Ms Griner admitted in court that she had vape cartridges containing marijuana oil in her luggage on February 2, but she claims she didn’t intend to commit any crime and she packed the cartridges accidentally because she was in a hurry.