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U.S. Offers Russia Prisoner Swap Deal To Free Griner

Brittney Griner’s defense team gave the prospect of including the WNBA star in a prisoner swap a cautious welcome, as Russia said talks on exchanging prisoners were “ongoing”. On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, told reporters that the U.S. offered a deal aimed at bringing back Griner and another jailed American, ex-Marine Paul Whelan. Griner's defense team learned of the U.S.'s offer from the news, reports The Guardian. Her lawyers, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov said they were not participating in the swap discussions. CNN and the New York Times reported that Washington was willing to exchange Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, who is serving a 25-year prison sentence in the U.S., as part of a deal. Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said on Thursday that negotiations between Moscow and Washington on exchanging prisoners are ongoing, but have not “resulted in concrete results.”


Griner was arrested at a Moscow airport in February. She acknowledged in court this month that she had vape canisters containing cannabis oil when she arrived in Russia but contends she had no criminal intent and the canisters ended up in her luggage inadvertently. Griner's next hearing is scheduled for August 12. She could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted. “From a legal point of view, an exchange is only possible after a court verdict,” Griner’s lawyers said. Russian officials have repeatedly expressed interest in the release of Bout, an arms dealer once labelled the “Merchant of Death.” Bout’s wife, Alla, told RIA Novosti news agency that her husband wasn’t aware of any negotiations. If successful, Whelan and Griner’s prisoner swap would mark the second high-profile exchange between the two adversaries this year. On April 27 , Russia and the U.S. carried out a prisoner exchange swapping former Marine Trevor Reed for Konstantin Yaroshenko, who was convicted of conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the U.S.

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