The US could secure the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner and retired US Marine Paul Whelan, who are jailed in Russia. To secure their release, Washington has offered Moscow a plan trade a Russian arms trafficker for Whelan and Griner, according to CNN.
Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer, is jailed in the US over plotting to kill Americans by making weapons available to terror outfits. A US court sentenced Bout to 25 years in prison in 2012 after finding him guilty of selling arms to Colombian rebels.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that the US offered a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago to Moscow to facilitate the release of Whelan and Griner.
Blinken To Speak With Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov
During the press briefing on Wednesday, Blinken said that in the coming days, he expects to speak with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov for the first time since the war began. "I plan to raise an issue that's a top priority for us: the release of Americans Paul Whelan and, who have been wrongfully detained and must be allowed to come home."
Biden Supports Plan To Trade Bout for Whelan and Griner
Citing three sources familiar with the matter, CNN claimed that the plan to trade Bout for Whelan and Griner received the backing of President Joe Biden after being under discussion since earlier this year. Biden's support for the swap overrides opposition from the Department of Justice, which is generally against prisoner trades.
Griner Says She Had No Intention Of Smuggling Drugs to Russia.
Griner was again represented on Wednesday before a court in Russia for her trial. The WNBA star also claimed that she had no intention of smuggling drugs to Russia.
She was arrested in March after customs officials detected cannabis oil in her luggage at Sheremetyevo Airport near Moscow.
Russian customs department at the time of Griner's arrests stated that during inspection of her hand luggage the presence of vapes with specifically smelling liquid was confirmed and an expert determined that the liquid was cannabis oil (hash oil), which is a narcotic substance.
Russia Sentenced Whelan For 16 Years
Whelan was convicted of spying in Russia in 2020. He was jailed for 16 years in Russia over 'spying for the US'.
Whelan was detained by agents from Russia's Federal Security Service in a Moscow hotel room on December 28, 2018, as he prepared to attend a wedding.
According to Russia, Whelan, 50, was caught with a computer flash drive containing classified information. Whelan, who pleaded not guilty, said he was set up in a sting operation and had thought the drive, given to him by a Russian acquaintance, contained holiday photos.