In Rare Contact, US Offers Russia Deal For Griner, Whelan

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WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is escorted to a courtroom for a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, July 27, 2022. American basketball star Brittney Griner returned Wednesday to a Russian courtroom for her drawn-out trial on drug charges that could bring her 10 years in prison of convicted. (Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool Photo via AP)

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The Biden administration has offered a deal to Russia aimed at bringing home WNBA star Brittney Griner and another jailed American Paul Whelan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday.

In a sharp reversal of previous policy, Blinken also said he expects to speak with his Kremlin counterpart for the first time since before Russia invaded Ukraine.

The statement marked the first time the U.S. government has publicly revealed any concrete action it has taken to secure the release of Griner, who was arrested on drug-related charges at a Moscow airport in February and testified Wednesday at her trial.

Blinken did not offer details on the proposed deal, which was offered weeks ago, though it is unclear if it will be enough for Russia to release the Americans. But the public acknowledgment of the offer at a time when the U.S. has otherwise shunned Russia, reflects the mounting pressure on the administration over Griner and Whelan and its determination to get them home.

Blinken said Washington would like a response from Moscow. Russia has for years expressed interest in the release of Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer once labeled the “Merchant of Death” who was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2012 on charges that he schemed to illegally sell millions of dollars in weapons.

Blinken said he had requested a call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. American officials said the desire for an answer on the prisoner offer was the primary, but not only, reason that the U.S. on Wednesday requested the call with Lavrov.

Should the call take place, it would be the first conversation that Blinken and Lavrov have held since Feb. 15, about a week before Russia invaded Ukraine. Blinken said he would also be speaking to Lavrov about the importance of Russia complying with a UN-brokered deal to free multiple tons of Ukrainian grain from storage and warning him about the dangers of possible Russian attempts to annex portions of eastern and southern Ukraine.

(AP)


3 COMMENTS

  1. Why would Griner, who sits for the National anthem and spits at our flag, ever want to come back to this evil racist country?! Why would she return to a privileged white country that has treated her so terribly?!

  2. Let them keep Griner. She knowingly committed a crime there; did she seriously think they would go easy on her just because she’s American?! In any case she hates America and all it stands for, so we should not pay any price to rescue her. It’s not as if she’d be grateful to America; she’d just come back and keep trashing the country. She’s washed her hands of us, let’s wash our hands of her.