The Biden administration has offered Russia a deal aimed at bringing back WNBA star Britney Grenier and another imprisoned American, Paul Whelan.
WASHINGTON – The United States has offered Russia a deal aimed at bringing the WNBA star home Britney Greiner And another imprisoned American, Paul Whelan Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said 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 To discuss the transaction and other matters.
Blinken’s comments were the first time the US government has publicly revealed any concrete action it took to secure the release of Grenier, who was arrested on drug charges at Moscow airport in February. Wednesday testified at her trial. Although it is unclear whether the proposal would be enough for Russia to release the Americans, public acknowledgment of the offer at a time when the United States would otherwise shun Russia reflects the administration’s increasing pressure on Grener and Whelan and its determination to obtain them. Homepage.
We put a substantive proposal on the table weeks ago to facilitate their release. Our government has reached out frequently and directly about this proposal, and I will use the conversation to follow up in person, and I hope we can move toward a solution,” Blinken said.
Blinken did not provide details of the proposed deal explained to the Russians, but US officials indicated that it resembled a prisoner exchange deal that secured their release. Marine veteran Trevor Reed in April. Russia has made no secret of its desire to do so Convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout To be released from US prison, officials have not ruled out that Bout’s release is on the table.
President Joe Biden, who authorized the prisoner exchange for Reade after meeting with his parents, signed the deal offered by the United States in the case, officials said.
“The president and his team are prepared to take extraordinary steps to bring them home,” White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
Should a call be made with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, it would be the first conversation the men had since February 15, about a week before Russia invaded Ukraine. 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 a new call with Lavrov.
Blinkin said he would also speak with Lavrov about the importance of Russia complying with a UN-brokered deal to free up multiple tons of Ukrainian grain from storage and warning him of the dangers of possible Russian attempts to annex parts of eastern and southern Ukraine.
“There is a benefit in conveying clear, direct messages to the Russians about the key priorities for us,” he said, including the release of Griner and Whelan. They also include “what we see and hear all over the world is a dire need for foods, and a dire need for lower prices.”
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 US government denounced the accusations as false.
Greiner, who has been held in Russia for the past five months, admitted in court that she had cigarette cartridges containing cannabis oil in her bags when she arrived in Moscow in February, but maintains that she had no criminal intent and inadvertently filled 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 said she was pulled aside at the airport after inspectors found the cartridges, but that a language translator translated a fraction of what was said during her interrogation and that officials ordered her to sign the documents without providing an explanation.
Griner faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of drug transportation.
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, where Reed was traded for the imprisoned Russian pilot, Konstantin Yaroshenko apparently opened the door for similar decisions in the future, and the Biden administration faced political pressure to bring Greiner home and other Americans who had been designated as unjustly detained.
Russia has for years expressed interest in the release of Bot, a Russian arms dealer once dubbed the “Dealer of Death,” who was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2012 for plotting to illegally sell millions of dollars in weapons.
There was no indication that Blinken and Lavrov had reached out to secure Reade’s release. The last publicly acknowledged communication was on February 22, when Blinkin wrote to Lavrov to cancel a meeting they had planned as a last-ditch effort to avoid a Russian invasion, saying that Moscow had shown no interest in serious diplomacy on the matter. The Foreign Ministry later said that Russian diplomacy was a “kabuki theater” – all showy and without substance.
The two last met face-to-face in Geneva in January to discuss what was then known as Russia’s massive military build-up along the Ukrainian border, Russian demands for NATO to reduce its presence in Eastern Europe, and the refusal of Ukraine’s permanent membership. The United States rejected the Russian demands.
Blinken and Lavrov avoided each other earlier this month the next time they were in the same place at the same time: at a meeting of G-20 foreign ministers in Bali, Indonesia.
The two men will be in the same city at the same time next week in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where they will both attend the ASEAN Regional Forum. It was not immediately clear whether the phone call before that meeting, scheduled for August 4-5, would presage a face-to-face discussion.