It appears that the chances of Brittney Griner coming home have just improved with Russia confirming that a prisoner exchange is being discussed.
On Thursday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ivan Nechayev confirmed for the first time that they were in talks of swapping Griner and another American prisoner, former Marine Paul Whelan. In previous weeks, news outlets reported that Russia was requesting the release of Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, who is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States. However, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken would not confirm that Bout was the prisoner being released in the swap.
Last week, the WNBA star received a nine-year sentence after pleading guilty to bringing a vape cartridge containing marijuana oil into Russia. Griner maintained that it was a mistake. However, the country still convicted her of drug possession and drug smuggling. Her arrest in February sparked international outrage and called for the Biden administration to act.
Griner’s case highlighted Whelan, who was arrested in Moscow in 2018 and sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2020. Whelan was convicted of espionage and has been fighting to come home since his arrest.
The status of the potential swap remains unknown, but with Russia confirming the talks, it appears that Griner and Whelan have a good chance of returning to U.S. soil.
“Instructions were given to authorized structures to carry out negotiations,” Nechayev told journalists Thursday.