Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that U.S. officials are pressing Russia “almost every day” in ongoing efforts to secure the release of detained WNBA star Brittney Griner and former U.S. marine Paul Whalen
Blinken said this summer that the Biden administration made a “substantial proposal” to free Griner and Whelan, reportedly offering up notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is detained in the U.S., for the two Americans.
During an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Blinken told moderator Margaret Brennan that the administration has continued seeking a deal.
“And since then, we’ve been engaged repeatedly, in any way that we can to try to advance it and to look to see if there are different permutations that could achieve what we’re trying to achieve, which is to get our people home. Brittney Griner. Paul Whelan,” Blinken told Brennan.
“We’re engaged in that on a — on a regular basis. And it’s my determination that we bring our people home. We will not stop until we do.”
Brennan noted Russian media reports that the Kremlin wants to do a one-for-one-prisoner exchange swap.
“Again, I’m not going to get into the details of it. Look, the other side gets a vote in this. It’s not just what we want. It’s what they’re prepared to do,” Blinken replied to Brennan. “And this is something that we’re working on almost every day.”
Blinken’s remarks come after Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist recipient, was transferred to a Russian penal colony after losing her appeals of a nine-year prison sentence.
Griner has detained in Russia since February, when she was arrested by Moscow authorities just days after the Kremlin invaded neighboring Ukraine.
Whalen’s family said in a statement on Friday that he was rushed to a Russian prison medical facility, adding that they had little to no knowledge about his current status.
The Biden administration has said both Griner and Whalen are wrongfully detained.