Is Brittney Griner Closer To Release Now That The U.S. Is Negotiating A Prisoner Exchange? Or Politics As Usual?

After pressure from the fans, players, and public opinion for President Biden to work harder to secure the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner, the U.S. is reportedly willing to do a prisoner exchange.

“We put a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters at the State Department. “Our government has communicated repeatedly and directly on that proposal, and I’ll use the conversation to follow up personally and, I hope, move us toward a resolution.”

Although, when pressed, Blinken wouldn’t share any details about the specifics of the U.S. offer, it has been circulated that convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. He would be the center of the exchange for both Griner and former Marine and Russian detainee Paul Whelan. The 55-year-old Bout was once known as the world’s most infamous arms dealer before being convicted in 2011 by a U.S. court and sent to a prison in Illinois for a 25-year U.S. prison sentence.

“When it comes to our efforts to secure the return home of Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner you understand that I can’t and won’t get into any of the details of what we proposed to the Russians over the course of so many weeks,” Blinken continued.

In early July after Brittney Griner wrote an impassioned letter asking Biden to ramp up the efforts to free her from her “wrongful detainment.” Cherelle Griner, her wife, revealed that she had yet to receive a call from Biden during that time.

“I will find that balance of harm versus help in pushing our government to do everything that’s possible because being quiet, they’re not moving, they’re not doing anything,” Cherelle said on “CBS Mornings.”

However, since then, President Biden did reach out to Griner, and now it seems they are trying their best to execute a prisoner swap. Still, Russia will have to prove that they want to make the exchange, and their recent moves show that it might be as fluid as presented.

Now the Russians want another prisoner released in the form of Vadim Krasikov, convicted in December of murdering a former Chechen fighter, Zelimkhan “Tornike” Khangoshvili, 2019 in Berlin. He was sentenced to life in prison.

However, Krasikov is under German custody, and the Russians went through back channels to communicate the request instead of U.S. negotiators.

“This is delicate work,” National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said during a White House press briefing. “We’ve made a proposal, and we urge the Russians to move positively on that proposal so we can get these two individuals home. The details of it, I think, are best left between us and our Russian counterparts.”

Now Griner’s hopes for release are based on Russia being reasonable and not dragging in other international jurisdictions. Germany might not want to be a part of a multiple prisoner exchange, especially if they have nothing to gain. If there are German prisoners, they want to be released in exchange for Krasikov, which involves more time for additional negotiation.

The “request” could also be a way to prolong the inevitable, a stalled release for Griner while looking like they are only making demands of their own. Brittney Griner’s nightmare might soon be over, or it is just beginning.

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