US offers ‘substantial proposal’ with Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for release of Americans Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan

ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/AFP/Getty Images North America/TNS
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The U.S. has presented Russia with a “substantial proposal” aimed at securing the release of Brittney Griner, the WNBA star detained in Russia on drug charges, and Paul Whelan, another American jailed in Russia, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday.

Blinken said at a news conference that he plans to speak with Russia’s top diplomat, Sergey Lavrov, in the “coming days” about the proposal, describing the release of the two Americans as a “top priority” for the U.S. government.

CNN reported Wednesday that the U.S. has offered a prisoner swap that would grant the American release of Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms dealer labeled the “Merchant of Death,” in return for Griner and Whelan.

Blinken said he has not spoken with Lavrov since Russia launched its bloody invasion of Ukraine in February, but that the U.S. communicated a proposal weeks ago aimed at generating the release of Griner and Whelan.

“I’ll use the conversation to follow up,” Blinken said of his upcoming conversation with Lavrov.

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