Brittney Griner might be coming back to the United States soon. The WNBA star was arrested in February after she was caught with vape cartridges with hash oil in her luggage at the Sheremetyevo International Airport. Since then, her story has been shared across the news and social media and many have pleaded for her release.
According to CNN , the Biden Administration has proposed a prisoner trade with Russia; trading Griner and American Paul Whelan, both Americans imprisoned in Russia, for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout who is currently imprisoned in the United States.
Members of the Biden Administration who are close to the situation said that Biden approved the proposal back in June, 4 months after Griner was arrested.
A senior Biden Administration official told CNN that “We communicated a substantial offer that we believe could be successful based on a history of conversations with the Russians. … 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. 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.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed that he plans to discuss bringing home Griner and Whelan during a conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov this week. This would be his first conversation with Lavrov since the war in Ukraine began.
“My hope would be that in speaking to Foreign Minister Lavrov, I can advance the efforts to bring them home,” Blinken said. “There is in my mind utility in conveying clear, direct messages to the Russians on key priorities for us. And as I mentioned, these include securing the return home of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.”
Griner faces 10 years in a Russian prison after pleading guilty to the drug charges. Griner maintained that she was in a rush and did not mean to break the law.
“I’d like to plead guilty, your honor. But there was no intent… I didn’t want to break the law,” Griner said.