UPDATED 12:02 PM PT – Thursday, July 28, 2022
The Biden administration reportedly plans to exchange two Americans arrested in Russia for a weapons trafficker imprisoned in the US. According to CNN on Wednesday, Biden’s officials have offered Russia to exchange arms-dealer Viktor Bout for US citizens Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner who are facing legal trouble in Moscow. The report cited three unnamed sources, who claimed Biden has personally approved that plan.
Bout has been imprisoned in the US on arms-trafficking charges since 2011 and is serving a 25-year term. Meanwhile, Whelan was previously convicted of espionage charges back in 2020. For her part, Griner is currently facing criminal charges in Russia for carrying hashish oil in an airport.
Griner pleaded guilty in early July, however, said she unintentionally brought the cannabis into Russia. She faces up to 10 years in prison. It is understood that her trial will have to conclude prior to a deal being finalized, according to US officials familiar with the Russian judicial process as well as the inner workings of US-Russia negotiations.
The Biden administration has offered to exchange Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout for Americans Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, per @CNN
Griner has been detained for 160 days. pic.twitter.com/iGcpT8P07v
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 27, 2022
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said his department has discussed the matter with Russian diplomats directly. He added, he hopes to reach an understanding during his upcoming talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
“When it comes to our efforts to bring home Whelan and Griner you’ll understand that I 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,” said Blinken.
I’m grateful to the entire Biden administration for their work to free American’s wrongfully detained overseas. I pray Russia accepts the US offer so we can finally bring Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner home. pic.twitter.com/wuTvqexiiH
— Rep. Haley Stevens (@RepHaleyStevens) July 28, 2022
Griner appeared in a Russian court Wednesday.