BREAKING NEWS: Biden Administration is considering exchanging Russian arms dealer serving 25 years in US prison for Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan in prisoner swap, report claims
- WNBA star Brittney Griner was arrested at a Moscow airport in February
- Bout is an infamous arms dealer serving time after conviction on trafficking charges
- Whelan was accused of spying and sentenced to 16 years in a Russian prison camp
- Plan has backing of President Biden, CNN reported Wednesday
- The idea of a trade has been floated for months
- Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he is preparing for talks with Russian foreign minister Lavrov on a variety of subjects, including Griner and Whelan
The Biden Administration has offered Moscow a prisoner swap that would free Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, two high-profile Americans who are jailed in Russia’s notorious judicial system.
The proposal would free Griner, a WNBA star, and Whelan, a former Whelan convicted on spying charges he denies, in exchange for freeing Russian arms merchant Viktor Bout.
Bout, who was the inspiration the Nicholas Cage character in Merchant of Death, is serving a 25-year sentence in the U.S. after being convicted on trafficking charges.
The Biden administration has floated an offer to swap convicted arms trafficker Viktor Bout (C) in exchange for Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, who are both detained in Russia
Griner was arrested at a Moscow airport in February on drug possession charges. She spoke at her ongoing trial in Moscow Wednesday.
CNN reported on the outlines of the deal, which it said had earned President Biden’s backing.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken acknowledged the issue Wednesday, without confirming the proposed swap.
U.S. basketball player Brittney Griner, who was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, is escorted before a court hearing in Khimki outside Moscow, Russia July 27, 2022
Paul Whelan, a former U.S. marine who was arrested for alleged spying, listens to the verdict in a courtroom at the Moscow City Court in Moscow, Russia, June 15, 2020
‘In the coming days I expect 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 Brittney Griner who’ve been wrongfully detained,’ he said.
‘We communicated a substantial offer that we believe could be successful based on a history of conversations with the Russians,’ a senior administration told the publication. ‘We communicated that a number of weeks ago, in June.’
Top administration officials have repeatedly refused to confirm such a trade on the record when asked about it.
Griner acknowledged in court earlier this month that she had vape cartridges containing cannabis oil when she arrived in Russia but contends she had no criminal intent and the cartridges ended up in her luggage inadvertently.