The U.S. has offered Russia a deal in order to get Brittney Griner released, per CNN. The Biden administration has offered to exchange Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms trafficker who is currently serving a 25-year US prison sentence, for two Americans Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan. Whelan was arrested in Russia in 2018 and was accused of spying. In 2020, Whelan received a 16-year Russian prison sentence.
Sources told the outlet that the plan to release Bout, Griner, and Whelan received President Joe Biden’s backing after being under discussion for several months. CNN reports that the “Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Wednesday that the US presented a ‘substantial proposal’ to Moscow ‘weeks ago’ for Whelan and Griner, who are classified as wrongfully detained.”
However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday (July 28), “so far, there is no agreement on this issue.”
Blinken said Biden was “directly involved” and signed off on the proposal to release Griner and Whelan. Blinken could not confirm that Bout was a part of the deal and that he “can’t and won’t get into any of the details of what we proposed to the Russians over the course of so many weeks now.” He added that “in terms of the President, of course he was not only directly involved, he signs off on any proposal that we make, and certainly when it comes to Americans who are being arbitrarily detained abroad, including in this specific case.”
Griner testified in court Wednesday (July 27) stating that, “I do understand charges against me, I do take responsibility for them being in my bag, but I didn’t plan on bringing anything to Russia.”
The next hearing scheduled for Griner will happen on August 2.
Brittney Griner's Wife Speaks Out As WNBA Star Is Detained In Russia
Brittney Griner’s wife, Cherelle T. Griner, is speaking out on the WNBA star’s behalf after it was reported she had been detained in Russia for several weeks.
“Thank you to everyone who has reached out to me regarding my wife’s safe return from Russia. Your prayers and support are greatly appreciated. I love my wife wholeheartedly, so this message comes during one of the weakest moments of my life,” Cherelle captioned a photo of the two smiling on the beach. “I understand that many of you have grown to love BG over the years and have concerns and want details. Please honor our privacy as we continue to work on getting my wife home safely. Thank you!”
Russian officials said Griner was detained after they found vape cartridges containing oil derived from cannabis in her luggage at the Sheremetyevo airport near Moscow per NBC.
The offense could land the basketball star 10 years in prison.
Griner has played over in Russia for the past seven years. The last time she played in a game was Jan. 29 for the Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg before the two-week hiatus in February for the FIBA World Cup qualifying tournaments.
Griner’s home team, The Phoenix Mercury, released a statement eager for the athlete’s return back to the United States.
“We love and support Brittney and at this time our main concern is her safety, physical and mental health, and her safe return home,” the team said.
The USA Basketball league also expressed concern with Griner’s return.
“Brittney has always handled herself with the utmost professionalism during her long tenure with USA Basketball and her safety and wellbeing are our primary concerns,” the tweet said.
Per the outlet, the State Department has issued a “do not travel” advisory for U.S. citizens thinking of heading to Russia as the Ukraine/Russia conflict escalates.
Look at the outpouring of support for Brittney from fans: