Democrat President Joe Biden has offered to release a Russian arms dealer in exchange for Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, according to reports.
After months of debate, Biden is asking Russia to release Griner and Whelan in exchange for Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms trafficker serving a 25-year US prison sentence.
“We communicated a substantial offer that we believe could be successful based on a history of conversations with the Russians,” a senior administration official told CNN Wednesday.
“We communicated that a number of weeks ago, in June.”
The Department of Justice (DOJ) is opposing the move, arguing that it may embolden Vladimir Putin to snatch more Americans to use as bargaining chips.
The official added: “It takes two to tango.
“We start all negotiations to bring home Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained with a bad actor on the other side.
“We start all of these with somebody who has taken a human being American and treated them as a bargaining chip.
“So in some ways, it’s not surprising, even if it’s disheartening when those same actors don’t necessarily respond directly to our
“Whatever the kind of moral indignity of them holding innocent people and trying to extract from us someone like a Mr. Yaroshenko, who is the opposite of that, we nonetheless are so committed to bring our people home that we will make those painful choices in certain circumstances,” the senior administration official told CNN.
According to CNN:
Among senior Biden administration officials, the idea of prisoner swaps gained new momentum earlier this year after the successful release of Trevor Reed, a former Marine who was held captive in Russia for more than two years.
Reed was traded for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot then serving a 20-year federal prison sentence for cocaine smuggling conspiracy.
Biden officials had been concerned the decision to swap Reed for Yaroshenko would be criticized by Republicans. Instead, it won bipartisan praise.
Breaking CNN Exclusive: Biden administration offers convicted Russian arms dealer in exchange for Griner, Whelanhttps://t.co/ER2iK1Tlbr
— Abby D. Phillip (@abbydphillip) July 27, 2022
WNBA star Brittney Griner, who has been detained in Russia since February, testified in Khimki on Wednesday that she was not properly read her rights:
“Translations were not very good … His exact words were basically, ‘You’re guilty.'” pic.twitter.com/x4bdxei05T
— The Recount (@therecount) July 27, 2022
Griner testified Wednesday during her trial in Russia, where she faces up to 10 years in prison.
During her testimony, she claims she wasn’t read her rights due to a bad translator.
“I remember one time there was a stack of papers that the translator needed to translate for me,” she told the court.
“He took a brief look and then said the exact words were, ‘Basically you are guilty.’
“I still don’t understand how they ended up in my bag,
“I had no intention to break the law.
“I was in a huge hurry…rushed packing and stressed packing.”