Russian Counter Offer to Get US Citizens Home Denied by Biden Administration
A Russian proposal made as part of the deal being assembled to bring Americans Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan back from Russia is not being considered, according to a new report.
The report said that in addition to arms dealer Viktor Bout, Russia expressed interest in freeing Vadim Krasikov, a former colonel of Russia’s domestic spy agency who is imprisoned in Germany after a murder conviction, according to CNN, which based its report on “multiple sources familiar with the discussions.”
The CNN report said that the request has been part of informal discussions initiated by Russia’s FSB. Krasikov was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of the murder of former Chechen fighter Zelimkhan Khangoshvili.
The request was not considered part of Russia’s official offer because it was made informally and because Krasikov is in a German prison.
American officials floated the idea past German officials, but CNN reported the deal was never seriously considered.
Adrienne Watson, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said, “holding two wrongfully detained Americans hostage for the release of a Russian assassin in a third country’s custody is not a serious counter-offer.”
“It is a bad faith attempt to avoid the deal on the table that Russia should take,” she said.
National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby called the request a “bad faith attempt to avoid a very serious offer.”
“We urge Russia to take that offer seriously,” he said, referring to the proposal to trade Whelan and Griner for Bout.
Kirby said the Russians “haven’t been willing to faithfully consider or even seriously consider the offer that we put forward. I would not say stalled. … We very much want to see Brittney and Paul come home to their families where they belong. They’re wrongfully detained there. And we’re just going to keep at that work.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. put “a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago” to release Griner and Whelan, adding that “our governments have communicated repeatedly and directly on that proposal.”
Blinken said he and the Russians had a “frank and direct conversation” on a swap.
“I pressed the Kremlin to accept the substantial proposal that we put forth on the release of Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner,” Blinken added.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov “strongly suggested” that the United States embrace “quiet diplomacy” on a possible deal “without speculative information stuffing.”
CNN’s report said even if the discussion over Krasikov falls through, Russia is likely to demand a second person be released to make the trade two-for-two.
Wait wait we are exchanging a Russian arms dealer, the so-called “Merchant of Death” for Brittney Griner?! This is Bowe Bergdahl all over again. RIDICULOUS!
P.S. Griner hates America anyway! Like Lebron said, why does she want to come back? #griner
— Tomi Lahren (@TomiLahren) July 27, 2022
Griner’s trial is ongoing on charges she brought cannabis oil in her luggage. Whelan was convicted of espionage in 2020 and is serving a sentence of 16 years in prison.
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