US offered Russia a "substantial" deal in exchange for the release of Americans
US offered Russia a

United States: The United States has made a "substantial offer" to Russia to release Americans, including basketball star Brittany Griner, who also announced that she would meet her Russian counterpart for the first time since the Ukraine war, according to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Blinken said he looks forward to speaking with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov "in the coming days" about a proposal to release Griner, along with former Marine Paul Whelan, who told a court on Wednesday that he Unknowingly brought banned drugs.

According to Blinken, the pair have been "wrongfully detained and should be allowed to return home."

"Weeks ago, we made a big offer to facilitate their release." Our governments have communicated directly and repeatedly about that proposal, and I personally would use the conversation."

Blinken declined to go into detail, citing the sensitivity of the situation or confirming reports that the US was offering him to trade for a convicted Russian arms smuggler, Victor Bout.

Amid the Ukraine conflict, the US and Russia already exchanged prisoners: Washington swapped former US Marine Trevor Reid for convicted drug smuggler Konstantin Yaroshenko in April.

President Joe Biden is under increasing pressure to release Griner, who faces up to ten years in prison and whose wife previously accused the administration of doing too little.

Whelan was arrested in Moscow in December 2018 and sentenced to 16 years in prison for espionage, which he dismissed in 2020.
In a statement, Whelan's family expressed their gratitude for the efforts of the Biden administration and expressed hope that Russia "accepts this or some other concession" to their independence.

The phone call between Blinken and Lavrov will be the first since February 15, when a top US diplomat warned Russia against attacking Ukraine.

President Vladimir Putin launched an attack nine days later, calling for the United States and its allies to impose harsh sanctions and isolate Russia on the global stage.

"This will not be a conversation about Ukraine," Blinken told reporters.

Blinken and Lavrov last met in Geneva in January to discuss Russia's large-scale military build-up on Ukraine's border, as well as the need for NATO to reduce its presence in Eastern Europe and permanently deny Ukraine membership. discussed Russian demands. The United States had rejected Russian demands.

Next week, for the Organization of the Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum, two people will be in the same city at the same time in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It was not clear whether the phone call would foreshadow a personal discussion before the August 4-5 meeting.

When they both attended Group of 20 talks in Bali earlier this month, Blinken politely declined to meet with Lavrov, with the US rallying its allies to criticize Russia behind closed doors.

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and women's NBA champion of Russia, was arrested just days before Moscow launched its offensive.

He pleaded guilty to drug charges related to possession of vape cartridges containing cannabis oil.

In his trial in Khimki, just outside Moscow, Griner said he did not know how the cartridges ended up in his bag and had no intention of using them.

"I had no idea or plan to bring a banned substance into Russia," Griner said, wearing a Phoenix Mercury T-shirt and black basketball shorts.

"I had no intention of breaking Russian law," she said, explaining that she was in a hurry to pack and was tired of her recovery from Covid-19.

"I would never do anything that would hurt my team."

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