- BBC News World
A “significant” prisoner exchange offer.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said Wednesday that the Joe Biden administration is working to get Russia to extradite basketball star Brittney Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan to the United States.
The Olympic gold medalist was detained at an airport near Moscow in February when authorities found marijuana-laced e-cigarette cartridges in his luggage.
Whelan, for his part, was arrested in Moscow in December 2018 and sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2020 for being considered a spy.
Washington has said it believes both Kreiner and Whelan were wrongfully detained by Russia.
According to press reports Moscow is reportedly interested in swapping the basketball star for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bode..
According to CNN, Washington hopes to secure the release of the two prisoners in exchange for Putin.
Blinken said he would raise the issue in a call next week with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The two officials have not spoken since the war in Ukraine began.
Both the White House and the State Department declined to release details of the proposed deal on Wednesday.
Bout’s lawyer told Russian news agency RIA Novosti that he could not comment on reports of a possible exchange with his client, but that “it could change soon.”
Arms Dealer, pseud “Merchant of Death“He is currently serving 25 years in prison. in the United States on charges of trying to sell weapons to a Colombian rebel group to kill Americans.
White House spokesman John Kirby confirmed that an offer had been made “several weeks ago” but noted that Russia “has not yet positively engaged.”
He acknowledged that negotiations to free Griner and Whelan were “a delicate job” and that making the plan public was risky.
“It doesn’t help us Bring them If we negotiate in public, home”said.
Kirby added that a White House official had spoken with the Whelan and Griner families before Blinken’s announcement and that they would speak again in the next 48 hours.
The deal would be the first concrete action announced by President Joe Biden’s administration to free the 31-year-old basketball player.
At his drug possession hearing Wednesday, Griner said officers signed the paperwork, but “no one explained it to me.”
He also said He did not receive an explanation of his rights or access to a lawyer during the first hour of his detention And he has to use a translation app on his phone to communicate.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist admitted to drug charges against her but denied knowingly breaking the law, saying she packed her bags in a hurry.
“I still don’t understand how [los cartuchos de vape] Ended up in my bags,” Griner said.
“Accidentally in my bags, I take responsibility, but I did not intend to kidnap Or planning to smuggle anything into Russia,” he said.
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