CNN reports the Biden administration is working to secure the release of two Americans held by Russia – Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan – in exchange for Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms trafficker.
Bout is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence in the U.S.
Breaking CNN Exclusive: Biden administration offers convicted Russian arms dealer in exchange for Griner, Whelanhttps://t.co/ER2iK1Tlbr
— Abby D. Phillip (@abbydphillip) July 27, 2022
These sources told CNN that the plan to trade Bout for Whelan and Griner received the backing of President Joe Biden after being under discussion since earlier this year. Biden’s support for the swap overrides opposition from the Department of Justice, which is generally against prisoner trades.
“We communicated a substantial offer that we believe could be successful based on a history of conversations with the Russians,” a senior administration official told CNN Wednesday. “We communicated that a number of weeks ago, in June.”
The official declined to comment on the specifics of the “substantial offer.” They said it was in Russia’s “court to be responsive to it, yet at the same time that does not leave us passive, as we continue to communicate the offer at very senior levels.”
Read the full report here.
Whelan has been detained in Russia since 2018 for alleged espionage. WNBA star Griner has been held since February on alleged drug charges that carry a possible 10-year prison sentence.