Biden administration makes offer to Russia for release of WNBA star Griner, ex-Marine Whelan

US WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner arrives to a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow on July 27, 2022. 

Kirill Kudryavtsev | AFP | Getty Images

WASHINGTON – The United States has made an offer to the Russian government for the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday.

“We put a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago,” Blinken told reporters at the State Department.

The nation’s top diplomat also said that he would discuss the proposal with his Russian counterpart “in the coming days.”

“I plan to raise an issue that’s a top priority for the release of Americans, Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner, who have been wrongfully detained and must be allowed to come home,” Blinken said.

The Biden administration has described Griner’s arrest, a dramatic turn that came as the Kremlin prepared for war in Ukraine, as wrongful detention. Earlier this month, she pleaded guilty to drug charges in a Moscow court and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

“I’m terrified I might be here forever,” the Olympian wrote in a letter to Biden earlier this month, asking for his direct assistance with her case.

On the heels of the letter, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke with the WNBA star’s wife Cherelle Griner.

US WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner stands inside a defendants’ cage before a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow on July 26, 2022. 

Alexander Zemlianichenko | AFP | Getty Images

Last week, President Joe Biden signed an executive order that will expand the administration’s available tools to deter hostage-taking and the wrongful detention of U.S. nationals.

The executive order, known as “Bolstering Efforts to Bring Hostages and Wrongfully Detained United States Nationals Home,” will authorize the imposition of financial sanctions and visa bans on people involved in hostage-taking.

“This executive order reflects the administration’s commitment not just to the issues generally but to the families in particular and it has been informed by the government’s regular engagements with them,” said a senior Biden administration official on July 19, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to share details about the new executive order.

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