U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Russia has been given a prisoner swap offer for WNBA star Brittney Griner. It would bring Griner home along with another jailed American, Paul Whelan. The U.S. government proposed trading convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in return. Bout, known as the “Merchant of Death,” is one of the world’s most prolific arms dealers.
No deal has been accepted by Russia thus far, and when asked about the U.S. offer, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov replied that prisoner swaps “were typically negotiated discreetly behind the scenes.”
“We know that such issues are discussed without any such release of information,” Peskov said. “Normally, the public learns about it when the agreements are already implemented.”
A source familiar with the situation confirmed the U.S. was willing to exchange Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, who is serving a 25 year-prison sentence in the United States, as part of a deal. President Joe Biden has reportedly already signed-off on the deal if Russia were to accept.
Brittney Griner has been detained in a Russian prison since February after her arrest at the Moscow airport charged with smuggling drugs into the country after cannabis products were found in her luggage.
Reuters contributed to this article.
Karah Rucker: RUSSIA SAYS THERE’S NO DEAL YET ON A PRISONER SWAP.
THE DEAL- FIRST ANNOUNCED YESTERDAY – WOULD POTENTIALLY BRING HOME AMERICAN BASKETBALL STAR BRITTNEY GRINER, AS WELL AS A FORMER U-S MARINE.
Antony Blinken: “I expect to speak with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov for the first time since the war began. I plan to raise an issue that’s a top priority for us. The release of Americans Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner, who’ve been wrongfully detained and must be allowed to come home. We put a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago to facilitate their release.”
Karah Rucker: A SPOKESPERSON FOR THE KREMLIN EXPRESSED SURPRISE AT BLINKENS COMMENTS- SAYING SO FAR THERE HAVE BEEN NO AGREEMENTS IN THIS AREA.
AND THAT PRISONER SWAPS SHOULD BE DONE QUIETLY.
THE PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENT- EVEN CAUGHT THE FAMILIES OF THE DETAINED AMERICANS OFF GUARD.
David Whelan: “I think we were all taken by surprise yesterday when the announcement was made. Our reaction is a little bit of hope. The offer that the US government has made and the extraordinarily made public is super. Hopefully the Russian government will take the concessions that have been made and allow Paul to come home.”
Karah Rucker: A SOURCE TELLS REUTERS THE U-S IS WILLING TO SEND VIKTOR BOUT BACK TO RUSSIA IN EXCHANGE FOR THE TWO AMERICANS.
KNOWN AS THE “MERCHANT OF DEATH” — BOUT IS KNOWN AS ONE OF THE WORLD’S MOST PROLIFIC ARMS DEALERS.