Brittney Griner Case: Biden Administration Offers to Exchange Russian Arms Trafficker for WNBA Star

The Biden Administration has reportedly offered Russia a deal to trade Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout for WNBA star Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, according to CNN. Find out more below.

By Emlyn Travis Jul 27, 2022 9:40 PMTags
Watch: Brittney Griner Pleads Guilty to Drug Charges in Russian Court

President Joe Biden has not given up on bringing Brittney Griner back home.  

His administration reportedly offered Russia a deal to exchange convicted Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout—who is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence in the U.S.—for the release of the WNBA athlete and Paul Whelan, multiple sources told CNN. The exchange, which has been in discussion since June, has received Biden's support, per the outlet.  

"We communicated a substantial offer that we believe could be successful based on a history of conversations with the Russians," an anonymous senior administration official told CNN. "We communicated that a number of weeks ago, in June." 

The official explained that the trade would only be successful if Russia was "responsive to it," adding, "At the same time that does not leave us passive, as we continue to communicate the offer at very senior levels."  

In a July 27 press briefing, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the U.S. had "put a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago to facilitate" the release of Brittney and Paul, per NBC News. While he didn't share any additional information, the Secretary of State announced that he plans to speak with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the next few days.  

Brittney Griner Testifies in Russian Court Amid Ongoing Trial

He added, "Our governments have communicated repeatedly and directly on that proposal and I'll use the conversation to follow up personally, and I hope move us toward a resolution." 

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The news comes amidst Brittney's ongoing trial, which saw her testify in a Russian court on July 27. The athlete, who plays for a Russian team during the off-season, shared her experience being detained in Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport back in February after she was arrested for allegedly possessing vape cartridges that contained cannabis oil in her luggage.  

During her testimony, Brittney, who pled guilty to drug charges earlier this month, revealed that her passport was taken away from her after she opened her bag and a staff member "opened the cartridges" and "smelled them," according to NBC News. While she was able to call a lawyer, she said that her phone was subsequently taken away and she was not able to speak with them until the following morning, per the outlet.   

"At that point it felt like I was being held against my will," Brittney shared. "I asked again what's going on and when can I see my lawyer. I was then told I have to be interrogated."  

The Phoenix Mercury star, whose release has been called for by fellow athletes including Stephen Curry and Megan Rapinoe, also shared how her life has changed over the last five months.  

"My career is my whole life," she said. "And I spend a lot of time away from my family. Six months of the year I am away from my family. My parents aren't young, and I'm missing precious time away from them." 

If found guilty, Brittney faces up to 10 years in prison.  

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