American WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner arrives for a court hearing in Khimki, near Moscow, on July 27, 2022.
Kirill Kudryavtsev | AFP | Getty Images
WASHINGTON — The United States has made an offer to the Russian government for the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday.
“We put a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago,” Blinken told State Department reporters.
The country’s top diplomat also said he would discuss the offer with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov “in the coming days”.
“Our government has repeatedly and directly communicated on this proposal and I will use the conversation to follow up personally and hopefully move us forward toward a resolution,” Blinken said.
Blinken declined to share additional details about the U.S. offer under pressure from reporters.
“In regards to our efforts to secure the return home of Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner, you understand that I cannot and will not go into detail about what we have offered the Russians over so many weeks,” he said.
The Biden administration has described Griner’s arrest, a dramatic turn that came as the Kremlin prepared for war in Ukraine, as a wrongful detention. Earlier this month, she pleaded guilty to drug charges in a Moscow court and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
“I’m terrified of being here forever,” the Olympian wrote in a letter to Biden earlier this month, asking for his direct help with her case.
In the wake of the letter, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke with the WNBA star’s wife, Cherelle Griner.
Biden reassured his wife that he was working to secure Griner’s release as soon as possible, according to a reading of the White House appeal. He also said on the call that he was working to free Whelan, who is serving a 16-year sentence in Russia.
American WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner stands in the defendants’ cage before a hearing at the Khimki court outside Moscow on July 26, 2022.
Alexander Zemlianitchenko | AFP | Getty Images
Last week, President Joe Biden signed an executive order that will expand the administration’s available tools to deter hostage-taking and wrongful detention of U.S. nationals.
The executive order, known as “Supporting Efforts to Bring Home Hostages and Wrongfully Detained U.S. Nationals,” will authorize the imposition of financial penalties and visa bans on those implicated in hostage takings.
“This executive order reflects the administration’s commitment not only to issues in general, but to families in particular and it has been informed by the government’s regular engagements with them,” a senior government official said July 19. Biden administration, who spoke on condition of anonymity. to share details about the new executive order.
In April, Russia agreed to release former US Marine Trevor Reed in a prisoner swap with the United States.
Reed was charged with assaulting a Russian officer and detained by authorities there in 2019. He was later sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison. Reed and his family have maintained his innocence, and the US government has described him as wrongfully imprisoned.
For Reed’s release, Biden agreed to free Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot serving a 20-year federal prison sentence for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the United States.
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