Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that he had offered to release a Russian arms dealer imprisoned in the United States in exchange for the release of WNBA superstars Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan. Blinken added that the United States had offered “substantial proposals” for the release of Greener and Whelan, who were classified by the State Department as “unjustly detained.”
Blinken said at a state ministry press conference Wednesday that President Joseph Biden was “directly involved” and approved the proposal. He did not explicitly confirm that the bout was part of the proposed exchange, saying, “For the coming weeks, we will not know anything about the details of what we have proposed to the Russians. I wouldn’t do that again. ” According to a report from CNN..
Blinken said, “As for the president, of course, he was not only directly involved, but also approved the proposals we make, and certainly for Americans who are arbitrarily detained abroad, including in this particular case. “Continued.
Private sources close to the issue told CNN that the president’s support for prisoner exchange had, of course, defeated opposition from the Justice Department, which generally opposes such transactions.
The Russian government quickly pointed out that the US proposal had not yet been accepted. “So far, there is no agreement on this issue,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday.
Blinken said on the phone this week that he would discuss the issue with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, “I hope that talking to Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will help us to make efforts to bring them home. I have. “
“It is useful in my heart to convey a clear and direct message to the Russians about the priorities that are important to us,” Blinken said. “And, as I said, these include ensuring the return of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.”
Greener was arrested for possessing cannabis in February
Griner, WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury star center and two-time women’s basketball Olympic champion, was at an airport outside Moscow in February after customs authorities found an arc cartridge containing less than a gram of cannabis oil in his luggage. Arrested by Russian authorities. Greener pleads guilty to the charges she faces and can be sent to jail for up to 10 years. Her trial continues in Kimki’s court on the outskirts of Moscow while authorities hear her additional testimony before deciding her fate.
Welan has been detained by Russian authorities on suspicion of espionage since 2018. If the offer from the Biden administration is accepted by the Russian government, Greener and Whelan will be exchanged for Russian Victor Bout, who was convicted of arms trafficking in 2018, sentenced to 25 years in prison in the United States. increase.
Biden administration officials said the Russian government did not respond to the “substantial offer” announced in June, adding that “tango will cost two.”
“We will start all negotiations to bring home Americans who have been held hostage or illegally detained by villains on the other side. We will do all this with humans and Americans. We’ll start with someone we consider and treat as a tip for negotiations, “said officials. “So, in a sense, even if it’s disappointing, it’s not surprising that those same actors don’t necessarily engage in negotiations constructively when they don’t necessarily respond directly to our offer.”
Officials have revealed the terms of the offer, saying Russia’s “it is the courts that respond to it, but at the same time it continues to convey the offer at a very high level and is not reluctant to us.” There wasn’t.
John Kirby, National Security Council Communications Strategy Coordinator, said Wednesday that Blinken officials had talked with Greener and Whelan’s family before Blinken revealed a prisoner exchange offer. He added that the White House is focused on taking two Americans home.
“We urge the Russians to actively pursue the proposal so that the two individuals can be brought home.” Kirby said.. “I think that detail is best left between us and our Russian counterparts.”
Apparently dissatisfied with the Biden administration’s announcement of the offer, the Kremlin said prisoner exchange transactions were usually carefully negotiated.
“We know that such issues are being discussed without the disclosure of such information.” Peskov told reporters During a conference call. “Usually the general public learns about it when the agreement is already in place.”
Grinner’s lawyers Alexander Boykov and Maria Bragovolina said the WNBA Star trial must end before the exchange can be negotiated.
As quoted by the Russian media outlet RBC, “from a legal point of view, exchanges are only possible after a court ruling,” the lawyer said. “In any case, I hope Britney will be back home soon. I hope this will happen.”