American basketball star Brittney Griner may finally return home from Russia in a prisoner swap. The defense team for Brittney Griner gave the prospect of including the WNBA star in a prisoner swap with Russia, where she has been held for a few months, a cautious welcome.
Russia said that the talks happening between the U.S. and Russia were “ongoing.”
Griner is a WNBA star who plays in Russia during the off-season, something that many big basketball stars do within the U.S. She was arrested and detained after authorities allegedly found weed vape cartridges in her luggage.
The WNBA lawyers said that Griner’s Russian defense team learned about an offer by the U.S. to Russia in the news and that they would be happy if she was able to return home and hope it would be soon.
“The defense team is not participating in the swap discussions,” the law team clarified, to state that it was a bilateral discussion between the two nations.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday announced that the United States offered a deal to Russia to bring Griner back as well as another jailed American, ex-marine Paul Whelan.
According to reports, the United States is willing to exchange Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout for the exchange, who is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence in the states.
Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova told journalists that the negotiations between the two countries on a prisoner exchange were still ongoing, but have not yet “resulted in concrete results.”
The spokesman for the Kremlin Dmitry Peskov said to reporters that there were no agreements in the area yet, confirming what had been said by the foreign ministry.
Griner was arrested in February.
During her trial, she acknowledged this month she had vape canisters with cannabis oil but had zero criminal intent. The canisters, she said, were in her luggage completely by accident because she was packing in a rush.
She faces up to a decade in prison if she is convicted. The next hearing is set for next week on August 2.
The arrest of the basketball star was very high profile across the world and brought attention back to the plight of the former marine detained in Moscow in a hotel in 2018, and sentenced to 16 years of prison in 2020. He was accused of spying and has always denied the charges against him.
In 2020 Russia proposed exchange for Whelan with Bout and a Russian pilot, Konstantin Yaroshenko. What will happen is not yet known.