Brittany Greiner: Secretary of State Discusses Prisoner Swap Proposal

The Secretary of State publicly requested the call, revealing this week that the United States had made an offer to Russia to repatriate Brittany Greiner and Paul Whelan.

WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Anthony Blinken spoke on the phone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday, the highest level of contact known between the two sides since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and Blinken urged Russia to accept a deal. to get the freedom of this country. American prisoners Brittany Greener and Paul Whelan.

Russian officials made no mention of whether Blinken had made any progress, only issuing a damning statement afterward, urging the United States to secure the Americans’ release through “quiet diplomacy, without the release of speculative information.” to follow

US authorities have in recent days made public their efforts to extradite Griner, the WNBA star, and Whelan, the corporate security director whose cases have drawn widespread national attention.

Blinken did not provide details of Lavrov’s response to what he previously called a “fundamental offer” to Russia to release Whelan and Griner. The United States wants to exchange Whelan and Greiner for the criminal Russian arms dealer Viktor Bot.

Blinken described the call as “a frank and direct conversation” that focused primarily on the detained Americans.

He said: “I asked Foreign Minister Lavrov to go ahead with this proposal.”

Blinken also said he pressed Lavrov on the importance of Russia complying with the agreement to allow Ukrainian grain shipments to leave the Black Sea, and warned him of the consequences if Moscow followed through on dubious plans to annex parts of the east and south. Ukraine to continue.

Blinken said he told Lavrov that the world would “never” recognize the annexation of Ukraine, which he said would “result in significant additional costs for Russia.”

He declined to comment on how Lavrov responded to his messages. I do not want to describe any of Foreign Minister Lavrov’s answers.

Afterwards, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Lavrov had “strongly” suggested to Blinken “a return to professional dialogue in the mode of calm diplomacy” about any attempt to free the American prisoners.

Lavrov also reiterated Russia’s pledge to continue fighting until its goals in Ukraine are achieved, reiterated his complaints that US and NATO support for Ukraine is prolonging the conflict, and accused the US of still not living up to its agreements in The case of grain shipments from Ukraine is not adhered to. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced.

Blinken’s comments earlier this week were the first time the US government had publicly disclosed any concrete steps it had taken to secure Griner’s release. The two-time Olympic gold medalist and Phoenix Mercury WNBA player was arrested at a Moscow airport in mid-February when inspectors found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage.

Griner’s arrest comes amid heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington ahead of the February 24 deployment of Russian troops to Ukraine. Griner’s five-month detention has drawn sharp criticism from his teammates and supporters in the United States.

His trial on drug charges began in a court outside Moscow this month, and he testified Wednesday that he did not know how the cartridges ended up in his bag, but that he It was recommended by the doctor Using cannabis to treat occupational pain

31 years old He has confessed his guilt But he said he had no criminal intent to bring the cartridges into Russia and was in a rush to return to play in the Russian Basketball League during the WNBA’s offseason. He faces 10 years in prison if convicted of drug possession.

The Biden administration has faced political pressure to release Griner and other Americans the United States has labeled “wrongfully detained” — a designation Russian officials have vehemently denied.

Whelan, a corporate security manager from Michigan, He was sentenced to 16 years in prison for espionage in 2020. He and his family have strongly maintained their innocence. The US government has called these accusations false.

For years, Russia has expressed interest in releasing Bot, a Russian arms dealer once known as the “Merchant of Death.” In 2012, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison for illegally selling millions of dollars worth of guns.

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