Britney Greiner: US seeks prisoner exchange with Russia to release WNBA star | Britney Greiner

The Biden administration has offered Russia a deal aimed at bringing the WNBA home Actress Britney Greiner And another imprisoned American, Former US Marine Paul WhelanThe Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, said on Wednesday.

In a sharp reversal of previous policy, Blinken also said he expected to speak with his Kremlin counterpart for the first time since then. Russia invaded Ukraine.

This statement is the first time the US government has publicly disclosed any concrete action it has taken to secure the release of Grenier, who was arrested on drug charges at Moscow airport in February and testified on Wednesday. at her trial.

Blinken did not provide details of the proposed deal, which was presented weeks ago, although it is unclear whether it will be sufficient. Russia to release the Americans.

But the public acknowledgment of the offer at a time when the United States would otherwise shun Russia reflects the administration’s growing pressure over Grener and Whelan and its determination to bring them home.

Blinken said Washington would like a response from Moscow. Russia has for years expressed interest in the release of Victor Bout, Russian arms dealer He once described the “dealer of death,” who was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2012 for plotting to illegally sell millions of dollars in weapons.

Blinken said he had requested a call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. US officials said the desire to respond to the prisoner’s offer was the primary, but not only, reason that prompted the United States on Wednesday to request contact with Lavrov.

Should the call be made, it would be the first conversation Blinken and Lavrov have had since February 15, about a week before Russia invaded Ukraine.

Blinken said he would also talk to Lavrov about the importance of Russia’s compliance with a UN-brokered agreement A deal made in Turkey Last Friday, he freed several tons of Ukrainian grain from storage, warning him of the dangers of possible Russian attempts to annex parts of eastern and southern Ukraine.

Whelan, a Michigan corporate security executive, was sentenced in 2020 to 16 years in prison for espionage. He and his family have strongly asserted his innocence. The United States government condemned these accusations as false.

GreinerHeld in Russia since the spring, she admitted in court this month that she had vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage when she arrived in Moscow in February to play basketball in Russia, but maintains she had no criminal intent and inadvertently loaded the cartridges.

At her trial on Wednesday, Greiner said she didn’t know how the cannabis oil ended up in her bag, but she made it clear that she had a doctor’s recommendation about it, and that she packed it up in a hurry. She faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of transporting drugs.

The US government has long resisted prisoner exchanges out of fear that it might encourage additional hostage-taking and promote a false equivalence between an unjustly detained American and a foreign national who is justly convicted.

But an earlier deal in April, in which Navy veteran Trevor Reed was traded for imprisoned Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, appeared to open the door to similar decisions in the future. The Biden administration pursued political pressure to reinstate Greiner and other Americans who had been designated as unjustly detained.

There was no indication that Blinken and Lavrov had reached out to secure Reade’s release.

Wednesday’s announcement was met with mixed reactions.

Michael McFaul, a former US ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014, praised Blinken’s efforts on Twitter but urged the State Department to include Mark Vogel in the deal.

“I salute Tweet embed & Tweet embed Efforts to bring Britney Greiner and Paul Whelan home even if it means extraditing Victor Bout. I support swap. I just wish Mark Vogel would be included in the deal. Bot is a real criminal. He deserves to free 3 innocent Americans,” McFaul chirp.

Vogel, an American teacher, was sentenced to 14 years in prison earlier this year after he was arrested by airport authorities in Moscow for carrying marijuana in his bags that he insisted was prescribed to him in the United States after a spinal operation.

Others were more critical, with one opponent Twitter: “An arms dealer for someone who had weed. I would say this trade is Putin’s theft. We need a new GM. [general manager]. “

The Libertarian Party of New Hampshire responded to the news of the prisoner exchange writing About actions related to drug crime in the United States, saying: “America is angry at Russia for doing to Britney Greiner what it does to 374,000 people a year.”