U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has just revealed that the United States has offered a “substantial proposal” to Russia to have WNBA player Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan returned to America, Fox News reports.
Griner is being held by Russia for having had vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in violation of the country’s laws. She has pleaded guilty, in a Russian court, to drug smuggling, but maintains that she had no intention of breaking the law. For the charge, Griner is facing up to 10 years in prison.
The official position of the U.S. State Department is that Griner has been “wrongfully detained.” The U.S. government holds the same position with regard to Whelan, a corporate security executive from Michigan.
Whelan has been convicted by Russia of being a spy, although he maintains his innocence. He is serving a 16-year prison sentence.
A “substantial proposal”
Blinken held a press conference on Wednesday where he revealed that the U.S. has made a “substantial proposal” to Russia for the return of both Griner and Whelan.
“In the coming days, I expect to speak with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov for the first time since the war began,” Blinken said. “I plan to raise an issue that’s a top priority for us: the release of Americans Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner, who’ve been wrongfully detained and must be allowed to come home.”
Blinken went on to reveal that the “substantial proposal” was submitted some time ago.
“We put a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago to facilitate their release,” Blinken said. “Our governments have communicated repeatedly and directly on that proposal. And I’ll use the conversation to follow up personally and I hope to move toward a resolution.”
What Blinken did not do during Wednesday’s press conference is reveal any real information about the specifics of the “substantial proposal.” So, it remains unknown what the Biden administration has offered to Russia.
There are rumors, however, that the proposal could contain, among other things, a prisoner swap. The swap, according to these rumors, could include the Russian arms dealer Victor Bout, whom the U.S. has sentenced in 2012 to 25 years in prison for providing aid to a terrorist organization and for conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens.
Whether or not this potential swap has truly been offered is unknown.
There are experts who have questioned the idea on the grounds that it would not be proportional.