The US offers a prisoner swap with Russia to free former Marine Paul Whelan (L) and WNBA star Brittney Griner (C) with Viktor Bout (R). Photo/Collage/Sindonews
“In the coming days, I look forward to speaking with Russian Foreign Minister (Sergei) Lavrov for the first time since the war began,” Blinken said.
“I plan to raise an issue that is a top priority for us: the release of Americans Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner, who have been wrongfully detained and should be allowed to return home. We put substantial proposals on the table last week to facilitate their release. Our government has communicated repeatedly and directly about the proposal,” he continued as quoted from CBS NewsThursday (28/7/2022).
Blinken said US President Joe Biden had been “directly involved,” and had signed off on the proposal.
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The conversation between Blinken and Lavrov will be their first interaction since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
A White House official said a high-ranking official had contacted the Griner and Whelan families prior to Blinken’s announcement and were in conversation with them today and tomorrow.
WNBA star Brittney Griner was arrested on February 17 at a Moscow airport when Russian customs officials said they found a vape cartridge containing marijuana oil in her luggage.
Paul Whelan has been in Russian custody since December 2018, when he visited Russia for a friend’s wedding. He was found guilty in a Russian court of espionage charges and sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2020.
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