The United States is trying to free basketball star Brittney Griner and another prisoner
The foreign ministers of the United States and Russia are negotiating the release of American prisoners in the coming days.
US Foreign Minister Antony Blinken said at a press conference held in Washington on Wednesday evening Finnish time that the country had made a "significant offer" for the release of American prisoners captured by Russia. The goal of the United States is to free basketball stars Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, accused of espionage.
According to a source familiar with the negotiations between the United States and Russia, the United States already offered to exchange the imprisoned Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in June in order to get Griner and Whelan out of Russia. The New York Times tells about it(you switch to another service).
Former US Marine Paul Whelan was sentenced in June 2020 to 16 years in prison for espionage. Photo: Anton Novoderezhkin / AOP
At the press conference, Blinken did not agree to confirm the US news channel CNN(you switch to another service)news that President Joe Biden had agreed to a prisoner exchange.
Russia has been demanding Bout's release for several years. Known as the "merchant of death," Bout, a 55-year-old former Soviet army officer, is serving a 25-year prison sentence for conspiring to sell weapons to people who said they intended to kill Americans.
Basketball star Griner, 31, who was arrested at Moscow airport, has been in custody since mid-February. Hashish oil was found in Griner's luggage.
Meanwhile, Whelan, 52, is a former Marine and security company owner who was arrested in a Moscow hotel in 2019. Both Griner and Whelan are classified as wrongful arrests by the US State Department.
Blinken and Lavrov will talk "in the coming days"
Blinken said earlier on Wednesday evening that he plans to speak with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on the phone in the next few days. Blinken did not elaborate on the proposal or Russia's response but said he did not want to jeopardize sensitive negotiations.
The foreign ministers have not been in contact with each other since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
Blinken commented on the content of the call in advance, saying that he intends to narrowly focus only on the most important issues, such as specifically the release of detainees, and the call is not about negotiating Ukraine.