Moscow seems to have the upper hand over Washington as the Kremlin has sought the release of Vadim Krasikov, an assassin who is imprisoned for life in Germany, in exchange for US Marine veteran Paul Whelan.
The former marine was subject of a dead-end negotiation over the summer. Reports state that negotiations to swap the Russian "Merchant of Death" arms dealer Viktor Bout for both Griner and Whelan collapsed over Russian demands that convicted killer spy Vadim Krasikov be included in the deal.
Russia settled for Griner for Bout as it regards both of them criminals.
Spy for a Spy
The Kremlin had stressed that Whelan is an American agent and would only be exchanged for a Russian counterpart, someone of a similar stature â spy for a spy. The United States relayed the Russian proposal to Germany. However, German officials have refused to release Krasikov, who is a former colonel in Russia's domestic spy organization serving a life sentence for murder in Germany.
John Kirby, White House national security spokesman, confirmed that there was a claim that they wanted a man named Krasikov, whom the Germans have held in custody. "That just wasn't considered a serious offer." He had said in late July that including Krasikov in any deal was a "bad-faith attempt" by Moscow to avoid a very serious offer from the US side.
It is believed that demand for the Russian spy's release originated with President Vladimir Putin. US diplomats suggested that the Kremlin was wary of providing a political boost to US President Joe Biden at a time of fierce hostility over Ukraine. Biden vowed, following the release of WNBA's Brittney Griner on Thursday, that he is not giving up on securing Whelan's release and would continue to negotiate in good faith.
However, the Republicans feel that Putin will play Whelan as a political pawn. Rep. Michael McCaul told CBSNews that the Russian president is going to leverage it for as much as he can. "We just have to be very careful because if we don't negotiate these exchanges properly, it can end up in more detentions, false detentions of really innocent Americans in Russia â like Griner and Whelan." McCaul highlighted that the Biden administration got played by Russia and that the original deal would have been a trade of arms dealer Viktor Bout for both Griner and Whelan, and the Russians withheld Whelan at the very last minute.
Krasikov Was With the Russian FSB
Krasikov was a former colonel in Russia's infamous FSB intelligence agency. He was convicted in 2020 for the killing of Zelimkhan "Tornike" Khangoshvili execution-style with three gunshots on August 23, 2019 in the central Berlin park Kleiner Tiergarten after following him on a bicycle.
Khangoshvili was head of a militia in Chechnya from 2000 to 2004. He fought the Russians and was branded a "terrorist". Khangoshvili's killing, as per the German prosecutors, was ordered by Moscow.
The court concluded that the crimes of Krasikov were grave. His sentencing is likely to prevent an early release after 15 years of imprisonment â this is common with the German justice system.
Krasikov was born in the village of Kenestobe in the Turkestan region of Kazakhstan. He had been wanted by law enforcement agencies for quite some time. However, sources with access to police databases said Krasikov cannot be found in the Interior Ministry's Integrated Data Bank. This mysterious disappearance from the database indicates that this part of the evidence of his ties to the Russian government.