The United States government has officially made an offer for Brittney Griner’s release in rare communication with Russia.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed Wednesday the U.S. offered a deal aimed at bringing home the WNBA star and another jailed American, Paul Whelan, according to the Associated Press’ Matthew Lee and Eric Tucker. Blinken also said he expects to speak with his Kremlin counterpart for the first time since before Russia invaded Ukraine.
Details of the offer — which was made weeks ago — were not disclosed, but the public reveal of the offer reflects the public pressure the Joe Biden administration has received from fans and various members of the sports industry, including the WNBA and the NBA.
Griner had sent a letter to President Biden, parts of which were made public on July 4, requesting his administration do all it can to bring her and other U.S. political prisoners home.
For years, Russia have expressed interest in the release of Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer once labeled the “Merchant of Death,” who was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2012 on weapons charges after he schemed to illegally sell millions of dollars in weapons.
The AP noted the United States’ historical stance on prisoner swap deals.
“The U.S. government has long resisted prisoner swaps out of concern that it could encourage additional hostage-taking and promote false equivalency between a wrongfully detained American and a foreign national regarded as justly convicted,” Lee and Tucker wrote Wednesday.
Griner has been detained in Russia since Feb. 17, and she plead guilty to drug charges July 7 — in her plea, she denied intent to break the law. Griner faces 10 years in prison if convicted.
As many legal experts have noted, the guilty plea could be a strategy for Griner’s team to allow a prisoner swap deal to happen — the Russian government would likely want an admission of guilt before a deal would occur.
When Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov actually meet and talk is unclear, but the first public announcement of action regarding Griner’s case certainly provides optimism for her return to the U.S.