Russia Confirms It Seeks To Swap WNBA Star Brittney Griner For One Of Their Convicted Arms Dealers
Back in February, WNBA star Brittany Griner was detained in Russia after she was found with hashish oil in her luggage. She was charged with drug smuggling and is now sentenced to 9 years in a Russian prison. Her lawyers believe the sentence does not fit the crime, and they want to appeal.
Meanwhile, Griner has pled her case to President Joe Biden. She wants him to do something to help her get back home.
What can the United States do? There have been talks about the United States and Russia working on a prisoner swap. Potentially the swap would involve Griner and fellow American Paul Whelan, who was charged with espionage and is currently serving a 16 year prison sentence in Russia. It has been rumored that Griner and Whelan may be swapped with a prisoner being held in an American prison.
Now, The Moscow Times confirms that discussions between the United States and Russia are happening regarding a prisoner swap, and the prisoner Russia wants to swap the Americans for is Viktor Bout, who is also known as “The Merchant of Death.”
Back in 2008, Bout was arrested in Thailand. In 2011, he was convicted of attempting to kill Americans, and he was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Reportedly, there have been talks of a prisoner swap between Russia and the United States for several months now, but this is the first time Russia has acknowledged it.
“The discussions on the very sensitive topic of an exchange are proceeding via the channels chosen by our presidents,” Alexander Datchiev, the head the North America department at the Russian Foreign Ministry, told the state news agency TASS. He added, “Silent diplomacy continues and should bear fruit if Washington, of course, is careful not to fall into propaganda.”
Details of the swap are still private between the two governments, but it may end up that two Americans are swapped for two Russians.
According to The Moscow Times, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson claimed to be “optimistic” about a “two for two” prisoner swap negotiation between the United States and Russia. He told ABC’s “This Week” that he believes Griner is “going to be freed, I think she has the right strategy of contrition, there’s going to be a prisoner swap — though I think it will be two for two, involving Paul Whelan.”
The Biden Administration currently considers both Griner and Whelan to be “wrongfully detained.”