The United States has pressured Russia to accept a deal that seeks to free two Americans imprisoned in Russia after one of them, basketball star Brittney Griner, was sentenced to 9 years in prison on Thursday on a drug possession charge. .
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“It is a serious proposal. We encourage you to accept. They should have accepted it weeks ago when we first did it,” White House national security spokesman John Kirby said, without elaborating.
Washington has offered to trade Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is serving a 25-year prison sentence in the US, for Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.
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American basketball player Brittney Griner during a court hearing in Russia – Photo: Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool/REUTERS
Russia had tried to add convicted murderer Vadim Krasikov, who is currently in prison in Germany, to the exchange, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.
Asked on Thursday whether Washington would be willing to reconsider Russia’s request after Griner’s sentencing, Kirby rebuffed: “I don’t think we would even call it a counter-proposal.”
Whelan, who has passports from the US, UK, Canada and Ireland, was sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2020 in Russia for spying. Griner was convicted and sentenced on Thursday of bringing hash oil vape cartridges to Russia.