Russia wants to add murderer to prisoner swap for Griner, Whelan: Report

The Russian government has requested that convicted murderer Vadim Krasikov be added to the U.S.-proposed prisoner swap exchanging Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for detained Americans Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, CNN reported Friday. 

The Russians apparently shared the request with the U.S. earlier this month, albeit through an informal backchannel used by spy agency and KGB-successor FSB, CNN notes. Because of the manner of the request, the U.S. did not “view it as a legitimate counter” to the original offer for Griner and Whelan. There is also the problem that Krasikov is currently in German custody, having murdered a Chechen fighter in Berlin’s Kleiner Tiergarten in 2019. He was sentenced to life in prison.

But, “underscoring how determined the Biden administration has been to get Griner and Whelan back to the US,” CNN writes, officials did in fact speak with the Germans about including Krasikov in a trade, per a senior German government source. When asked for comment on the situation, a State Department official told CNN that “in order to preserve the best opportunity for a successful outcome, we’re not going to comment publicly on any speculation.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed a swap with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday. Per CNN, it is likely the Russians demand two prisoners in exchange for Griner and Whelan.

Whelan was convicted on charges pertaining to alleged espionage in 2020 and sentenced to 16 years in prison. Griner is currently on trial in Russia for drug possession. Both are considered wrongfully detained by the State Department, CNN reports.