The Biden administration has offered Russia an offer to bring home American citizens Britney Griner and Paul Whelan. According to CNN, the Biden Administration offered convicted Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout in exchange. Bout is currently serving a 25-year US prison sentence.
The proposed deal has been discussed since earlier this year. Biden’s approval overpowers objection from the Department of Justice, which is believed not to have a desire to participate in prisoner trades.
“We communicated a substantial offer that we believe could be successful based on a history of conversations with the Russians,” a senior administration said. “We communicated that a number of weeks ago, in June.”
The ball is reportedly in Russia’s court, but the administration is still communicating with Russian officials.
“It takes two to tango. We start all negotiations to bring home Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained with a bad actor on the other side. We start all of these with somebody who has taken a human being American and treated them as a bargaining chip,” the official said. “So in some ways, it’s not surprising, even if it’s disheartening, when those same actors don’t necessarily respond directly to our offers, don’t engage constructively in negotiations.”
Griner pleaded guilty in early July, revealing she unintentionally brought cannabis into the country. In a Wednesday (July 27) testimony, Griner stated she was never read her rights.
President Biden, who just recovered from COVID-19, is stated to have recently spoke with Griner’s wife, Cherelle, and Whelan’s sister, Elizabeth.