The United States is ramping up efforts to bring Brittney Griner home. The WNBA star has been detained in Russia following her arrest at an airport back in February. President Joe Biden has reportedly proposed a swap of prisoners with Russia in order to secure Griner’s release. CNN indicates that Biden and the United States have submitted a proposal that would see both Griner and Paul Whelan released into U.S. custody, in exchange for convicted Russian arms dealer, Viktor Bout.
CNN Exclusive: The US has offered to swap convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout as part of an exchange for imprisoned Americans Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan. @kylieatwood @evanperez & @jmhansler reporthttps://t.co/Xjb4iighWp
— CNN NationalSecurity (@NatSecCNN) July 27, 2022
Bout is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States. Biden is reportedly supportive of the proposed plan to release the Russian arms trafficker in exchange for Griner and Whelan.
“We communicated a substantial offer that we believe could be successful based on a history of conversations with the Russians,” said a senior administration official via CNN. “We communicated that a number of weeks ago, in June.”
Griner has been detained in Russia since Feb. 17 when Russian authorities discovered vape cartridges containing cannabis in her luggage. She recently pleaded guilty to drug charges in a court in Russia and faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Griner’s trial is currently ongoing but will need to be concluded before any prisoner swap can take place.
Whelan has been imprisoned in Russia since 2018 after being accused of espionage, and his family has actively been trying to bring him home ever since.
Bout was convicted in 2011 of illegally selling weapons to a known Colombian terrorist group. Russian authorities maintain that Bout was arrested illegally by U.S. authorities in Thailand. There have been multiple efforts to have Bout extradited to Russia, but the United States denied their advances. Now, it’s possible that Bout will be granted extradition back to Russia as part of a prisoner exchange involving Whelan and Griner.