US keeps up push for Griner and Whelan prisoner swap with Russia

Brittney Griner
A policeman removes the handcuffs from WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner in a courtroom prior to a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, July 27, 2022. American basketball star Brittney Griner returned Wednesday to a Russian courtroom for her drawn-out trial on drug charges that could bring her 10 years in prison of convicted. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool) Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

US keeps up push for Griner and Whelan prisoner swap with Russia

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The United States is continuing to discuss a deal with Russia to free Americans the Biden administration believes are wrongfully detained.

Elizabeth Rood, the U.S. charge d’affaires in Moscow, told Russian-state media RIA in a piece published on Monday that the U.S. has already “submitted a serious proposal for consideration” and “offered alternatives,” but still, “the Russian Federation has not provided a serious response to those proposals.”

Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan are two of the most well-known wrongfully detained Americans in Russia, and the U.S. took the unusual step over the summer of admitting that it had made a significant offer for their freedom, though it did not secure their freedom. Griner is serving a nine-year prison sentence on drug charges after being arrested earlier this year, while Whelan is serving a 16-year prison sentence on espionage charges, which he denies.

BRITTNEY GRINER AND PAUL WHELAN COULD BE FREED BY YEAR’S END, ADVOCATE SAYS

“We have made a serious proposal that reflects our intention to take action to free American prisoners,” Rood explained. “We did not see a serious response from the Russian side to our proposal.”

“I would like to emphasize that the main concern and the first priority of the U.S. Embassy is to ensure the well-being of the American citizens who are here. And the situation is not limited to the names of those who are mentioned in the media headlines — a number of American citizens are kept in Russian prisons,” she said. “We are extremely concerned about the condition of each of them, and we continue to follow their affairs very closely and support them in every possible way.”

Earlier this month, Griner was taken to a penal colony in the Russian region of Mordovia to serve her sentence, which is the same region where Whelan is serving his sentence.

Rood said the consulate would visit Griner as soon as the Russian authorities give it permission, though she said Griner is “healthy and doing as well as can be expected in her difficult circumstances.”

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The State Department revealed in July that the administration had made a “substantial proposal” to get them home, and while the administration hasn’t commented on the details of its offer, it’s been widely reported that it included the release of convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who has been nicknamed the “Merchant of Death” for allegedly selling arms to sanctioned human rights abusers in various African nations.

Rood was asked to confirm Bout’s inclusion in the offer, but she did not confirm or deny his inclusion.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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