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The United States has offered to release the Russian ‘Merchant Of Death’ in exchange for the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner.
After months of deliberation, the Biden administration has offered to trade notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout in order to secure the release of Brittney Griner and fellow US citizen, police officer Paul Whelan.
Griner has been under Russian custody for the past five months and recently pleaded guilty to drug smuggling when she was allegedly found carrying vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage.
She pleaded guilty, however, explained that there was no intent to break the law.
Griner was playing in Russia during the WNBA off-season as many American basketball players do before returning to their regular schedule.
Meanwhile, Whelan was arrested in Moscow in December 2018 and sentenced to 16 years in a Russian prison in June 2020, convicted of espionage.
Whelan maintains he is innocent and was simply being held in order to influence the United States.
Now, National Security Coordinator John Kirby has confirmed the prisoner swap has been communicated to Russian officials.
He told the White House press: “We certainly hope that Russia will favourably engage on it, but I don't want to get into more detail about that.
“We believe that this is a serious proposal, and we want the Russians to take it seriously as well”.
If true that the US is offering Viktor Bout for the Americans in Moscow, as someone who covered Viktor for years and considers his conviction well deserved, it’s a good trade. VB’s done 14 tough years in Supermax holding him longer isn’t worth 10 years of the poor woman’s life.— Mitchell Prothero (@mitchprothero) July 27, 2022
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken also alluded to the swap during a State Department Briefing on Tuesday (July 26), where he expects to speak to Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in the ‘coming days’, according to The Independent.
“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,” he said.
“We put a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago to facilitate the release. 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 in the coming days.”
It would signal the first conversation between Blinken and Lavrov since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine five months ago.
Viktor Bout was a notorious arms dealer during the 1990s and early 2000s before he was arrested in March 2008.
He is currently serving a 25-year sentence in the United States.
Featured Image Credit: Sipa US / Alamy. Zuma Press / Alamy.
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