The Biden administration has reportedly made a “substantial offer” to return two American prisoners from Russia, according to the US secretary of state.
According to numerous reputable sources, Moscow is considering trading basketball player Brittney Griner for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. Secretary Antony Blinken confirmed that he would discuss the deal with Russia’s foreign minister over the phone next week.
Mr. Blinken and Sergei Lavrov have not spoken since the Ukrainian war erupted and The White House and the Department of State have both refused to comment on the proposed agreement on Wednesday.
According to top sources who spoke to CNN this week, the US has long hoped to exchange Viktor Bout for Ms. Griner and fellow American Paul Whelan, who was found guilty of espionage in 2020.
Furthermore the New York Times recently reported that the US offered Russia Mr Bout in exchange for Ms Griner and Whelan last month, a proposition President Joe Biden allegedly accepted.
The attorney for Viktor Bout stated to the Russian news outlet Ria Novosti that he was unable to respond to reports of an exchange with his client but added that “this could change soon.”
Alla, Mr Bout’s wife, claims that neither she nor her husband were informed of the plans for the trade in prisoners.
The arms dealer, nicknamed the “merchant of death,” is currently serving a 25-year sentence in the United States after being convicted of attempting to supply a Colombian rebel group with weapons with the intent of murdering Americans.
An offer was made “several weeks ago,” according to White House spokesman John Kirby, but Russia has not “favourably engaged so far.” He also admitted that the efforts to secure the pair’s release were “delicate work,” and that making the proposal information public was a risk.
“If we’re negotiating in public, it’s not going to help us get them home,” John Kirby contended.
The families of Mr. Whelan and Mr. Griner had spoken with a White House representative prior to Mr. Blinken’s announcement, and revealed they would do so again over the ensuing 48 hours, Mr. Kirby revealed.
The agreement would be the American government’s first significant move toward Ms. Griner’s release.
Griner, who is 31 years old, has been held since February after Moscow airport officials found cannabis oil in her luggage as she was returning to the US after performing in Russia.
Whilst Whelan, a former US Marine, has already been incarcerated for 16 years in Moscow. America claims that Whelan and Ms. Griner were both unjustly imprisoned by Russia.
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