Report: Biden to exchange Griner, Whelan for arms dealer Viktor Bout

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner sits in a cage at a court room prior to a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, July 27, 2022. American basketball star Brittney Griner returned Wednesday to a Russian courtroom for her drawn-out trial on drug charges that could bring her 10 years in prison of convicted. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool)

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner sits in a cage at a court room prior to a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, July 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool)

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UPDATED 12:02 PM PT – Thursday, July 28, 2022

The Biden administration reportedly plans to exchange two Americans arrested in Russia for a weapons trafficker imprisoned in the US. According to CNN on Wednesday, Biden’s officials have offered Russia to exchange arms-dealer Viktor Bout for US citizens Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner who are facing legal trouble in Moscow. The report cited three unnamed sources, who claimed Biden has personally approved that plan.

Bout has been imprisoned in the US on arms-trafficking charges since 2011 and is serving a 25-year term. Meanwhile, Whelan was previously convicted of espionage charges back in 2020. For her part, Griner is currently facing criminal charges in Russia for carrying hashish oil in an airport.

Griner pleaded guilty in early July, however, said she unintentionally brought the cannabis into Russia. She faces up to 10 years in prison. It is understood that her trial will have to conclude prior to a deal being finalized, according to US officials familiar with the Russian judicial process as well as the inner workings of US-Russia negotiations.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said his department has discussed the matter with Russian diplomats directly. He added, he hopes to reach an understanding during his upcoming talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

“When it comes to our efforts to bring home Whelan and Griner you’ll 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 now,” said Blinken.

Griner appeared in a Russian court Wednesday.

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