United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on July 27 that the U.S. has put forward a “substantial proposal” to Russia to secure the release of basketball star Brittney Griner and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan.
At a press briefing, Blinken laid out his plans for his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the coming days.
“I plan to raise an issue that’s a top priority for us: the release of Americans Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner, who have been wrongfully detained and must be allowed to come home. We put a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago to facilitate their release,” Blinken said.
“Our governments have communicated repeatedly and directly on that proposal. And I’ll use the conversation to follow up personally and, I hope, move us toward a resolution,” Blinken added.
Blinken said that President Joe Biden has been “directly involved” and “signs off on any proposal that we make and any — and certainly when it comes to Americans who are being arbitrarily detained abroad, including in this specific case.”
The meeting would be his first interaction with Lavrov since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
Blinken did not disclose details of the proposed deal.
Citing sources, CNN reported that the Biden administration has offered to exchange convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is serving a 25-year prison sentence in the U.S., for Griner and Whelan.
Russian state media Ria Novosti also reported that the U.S. was offering the exchange.
But Bout’s wife Alla told Ria Novosti that neither of them knew anything about the negotiations.
Russian authorities detained Griner in February, accusing her of drug possession and smuggling.
In 2020, a Russian court convicted Whelan of espionage and sentenced him to 16 years in prison.
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