Russia makes Brittney Griner counteroffer, report says

U.S.

(NewsNation) — Russia has reportedly given the U.S. a counteroffer that would add a convicted murderer to a potential deal that would bring WNBA star Brittney Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan back to the U.S., according to CNN.

The U.S. says it offered Russia a “substantial proposal,” that reportedly would have sent convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, also known as the “merchant of death,” back to Russia for Griner and Whelan.

Now, CNN is reporting that Russia is also asking for Vadim Krasikov, a Russian military colonel convicted of murdering a Chechen fighter in 2019. Krasikov was sentenced to life in prison.

Jamil Jaffer, the founder of the National Security Institute, said on NewsNation that Russia’s counteroffer likely comes from Russia knowing it holds tremendous leverage in negotiations, as the Biden administration faces immense pressure to secure a deal for Griner.

In this Aug. 23, 2019, file photo, Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who was arrested for alleged spying in Moscow on Dec. 28, 2018, stands in a cage as he waits for a hearing in a courtroom in Moscow, Russia. The Moscow City Court on Monday, June 15, 2020, convicted Paul Whelan on charges of espionage and sentenced him to 16 years in a maximum security prison colony. Whelan has insisted on his innocence, saying he was set up. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko. File)

“This effort to get Krasikov might be a counteroffer designed to get a middle ground offer,” Jaffer said. “The Russians had also been asking earlier for a hacker named Roman Seleznev, he’s the son of a member of Russian parliament, he’s got a 27-year sentence in U.S. prison for engaging in bank fraud, credit card fraud.”

Jaffer said any swap likely won’t be an “even swap” given the Russians “recognize” the pressure facing the Biden administration to strike a deal.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke by phone to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday in the highest-level known contact between the two sides since Russia invaded Ukraine, with Blinken urging Russia to accept a deal.

Jaffer believes Russia will accept a deal at some point.

“I think getting Viktor Bout out for Griner and Whelan is ultimately a coup for the Russians,” Jaffer said. “The Biden administration is in a tough position. I have sympathy for them on this because there is a need to get Griner and Whelan back.”

FILE – Viktor Bout, center, is led by armed Thai police commandoes as he arrives at the criminal court in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2010. The Russian arms dealer who once inspired a Hollywood movie is back in the headlines with speculation around a return to Moscow in a prisoner exchange for U.S. WBNA star Brittney Griner and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong, File)

Blinken did not provide details of Lavrov’s response to what he had previously called a “substantial proposal” for Russia to release Whelan and Griner. Blinken had publicly requested the call and revealed the existence of the offer to Russia.

Blinken described the call as “a frank and direct conversation” centered primarily on the detained Americans.

“I urged Foreign Minister Lavrov to move forward with that proposal,” he said. “I can’t give you an assessment of whether that is any more or less likely.”

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