Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed on Wednesday that the United States has made a “substantial proposal” to bring home WNBA star Brittney Griner, as well as another American currently detained in Russia. Blinken did not elaborate on the details of the proposal while taking questions from reporters at the State Department, telling reporters: “We put a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago. 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.” Blinken said he would discuss the proposal with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the coming days.
CNN reported that the proposal involves exchanging Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms trafficker, for Griner and Paul Whelan, a former Marine and former security executive serving a 16-year hard labor sentence at a Mordovia prison camp. Bout is currently serving a 25-year U.S. prison sentence after being found guilty in 2011 of conspiring to sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to a designated foreign terrorist organization based in Colombia to be used to kill Americans in that country.
The 31-year-old Griner pleaded guilty to possessing less than a gram of hash oil when she arrived and was taken into custody at the Moscow airport on Feb. 17. She testified in Russian court Wednesday that she had not intended to bring hash oil vape cartridges with her to Russia, saying that her rights were not read to her and she didn’t understand what was going on during her arrest. Griner testified that she uses medical cannabis after a knee injury, but did not use it before tournaments, adding that she has a medical marijuana prescription from the state of Arizona.
Griner’s trial is expected to last until at least early August, and a Russian judge has ordered her detained for the entire length of the trial. She faces as many as 10 years in prison if she’s convicted on the drug charges.
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