Blinken to hold call with Russia’s Lavrov for first time since Ukraine invasion
The Biden administration has proposed a deal to Russia that would see Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner freed, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
The Biden administration has proposed a deal to Russia that would see Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner freed, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday.
CNN reported that Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, imprisoned in the US, would be released as part of the exchange.
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While Blinken did not mention Bout or a prisoner exchange, he said the US had made a “substantial offer” to release the US prisoners.
During Blinken’s scheduled call with Lavrov, he said it would “not be a negotiation about Ukraine.”
Whelan, a corporate security executive from Michigan, was sentenced in 2020 to 16 years in prison on espionage charges. He and his family have vigorously asserted his innocence. The US government has denounced the charges as false.
Griner, in Russian custody for the last five months, acknowledged in court that she had vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage when she arrived in Moscow in February but contends she had no criminal intent and packed the cartridges inadvertently.
Griner faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of transporting drugs.
The Biden administration has been hounded with political pressure to bring home Griner and other Americans designated as unjustly detained.
The two last met in person in Geneva in January to discuss what was then Russia’s massive military build-up along Ukraine’s border and Russian demands for NATO to reduce its presence in eastern Europe and permanently deny Ukraine membership. The US rejected the Russian demands.
Read more: Families of Americans held abroad team up to pressure Biden
With The Associated Press