The United States has offered Russia a “substantial proposal” to secure the release of two Americans detained in Russian territory, Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, as said on Wednesday (27) the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The CNN television station specified that Washington had proposed to Moscow a prisoner exchange in which it would release Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for Griner’s freedom and Whelan, which has not yet been confirmed by the authorities.
Blinken announced at a press conference that he plans to speak in the coming days with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in what will be the first conversation between the two since the beginning of the conflict with Ukraine in 24 February.
“We have two priorities when it comes to Americans being arbitrarily and unfairly detained in any anywhere in the world, including Russia (…) that they are freed and can return to home and work to prevent this horrible practice,” said Blinken.
Griner is a professional basketball player who is accused of drug possession and smuggling. The two-time world and Olympic champion with her country was arrested in February this year at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport after customs officials found cannabis oil, a substance banned in Russia, among her belongings.
Whelan is a former marine arrested by agents of the Federal Security Service (FSB, former KGB) in a Moscow hotel in 2018 and sentenced to 16 years of imprisonment. arrest after being found guilty of “espionage activities” on behalf of the US.
Blinken further stated that President Joe Biden was directly involved in the negotiations and that he himself authorized the proposal that was made to Moscow .
Later, one of the White House spokespersons, John Kirby, revealed in a press conference some details of the negotiation with Russia.
Kirby explained that Washington made its proposal to Moscow “several weeks ago” and assured that the White House has made it clear that it is “a serious proposal” with the aim that the Kremlin “takes seriously”. o” so that Griner and Whelan can return to their homes as quickly as possible.
“This is something that has been a priority for the president,” Kirby pointed out. As he explained, one of the high-ranking government officials contacted the families of Griner and Whelan on Wednesday by phone to provide details of the process.
“We are in constant contact with both of them. families on the progress of negotiations. We are working hard to keep you informed”, he declared.
On the other hand, Kirby declined to confirm whether Bout, incarcerated in a US prison, is part of the agreement with Russia, as reported. to CNN. “I will not talk about specific individuals”, he replied at the insistence of journalists.