WASHINGTON (Fwrd Axis) — The Biden administration made a “substantial” offer to Russia to coordinate the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, a corporate executive, both of which have been detained in Moscow.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday he would lay out the plans in a conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the coming days, their first conversation since February when Russia’s war in Ukraine began.
“We put a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago to facilitate their release,” Blinken said.
The news comes as the Biden administration has faced backlash and pressure to do more to secure the release of the two American prisoners in Russia, which the U.S. says both have been wrongfully detained.
“Our governments have communicated repeatedly and directly on that proposal and I’ll use the conversation to follow up personally, and I hope to move us toward a resolution,” Blinken said.
John Kirby, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, was asked about Blinken’s announcement during a White House briefing later Wednesday.
“We think making it clear that there is an actual proposal made, that there is something tangible on the table, is important context for the world to know about the United States’ seriousness with which we will try to get our citizens back home,” Kirby said.
On Tuesday, Trevor Reed, a former U.S. Marine who was freed from a Russian prison this year, said the White House was “not doing enough” to ensure the release of Griner and Whelan.
Griner was detained back in February when she was arrested for drug smuggling charges. Her trial began last month and if she is convicted, she faces up to 10 years in a Russian prison.
Whelan was convicted two years ago on charges of espionage. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison.