Veteran emissary Richardson hopeful for Griner, Whelan swap

WASHINGTON – Bill Richardson, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and a frequent emissary in hostage negotiations, said Tuesday he was hopeful about the chances of a two-for-two prisoner swap that could result in Russia’s release of WNBA star Brittney Griner and another jailed American, Paul Whelan.

In cases like this, Richardson said in an interview with The Associated Press, “it’s proportional — two-for two.”

Richardson, who traveled to Russia in advance of the release by Moscow of Marine veteran Trevor Reed in an April prisoner swap, declined to discuss the current status of negotiations with Russia over Griner or Whelan or to explain what role he may be playing in the talks.

But he said he felt “relatively positive” for several reasons. For one, the conclusion of the criminal case against Griner last week — she was convicted and sentenced to nine years in prison on drug charges — provides an opening for diplomatic negotiations to begin in earnest. Plus, he said, the U.S. and Russia have already shown a willingness to carry out prisoner swaps, as evidenced by the Reed exchange. And Griner’s strategy of expressing contrition before a Russian court was important.

“And that is why I think a two-for-two deal is hopefully a likely outcome,” Richardson said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken took the unusual step of revealing publicly last month that the U.S. in June made a “substantial proposal” to get Griner and Whelan home. He did not elaborate, but the AP and other news organizations have reported that the U.S. has offered to free Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who is serving a 25-year sentence in the U.S. and once earned the nickname the “Merchant of Death.”

Russia made a counteroffer that the U.S. did not regard as serious, the White House has said.

It is not clear which other Russian could be included in a two-for-two deal, assuming it happens.

Griner, the most prominent American jailed by a foreign government, has acknowledged there were vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage when she was arrested at a Moscow airport in February. But she insisted that she had no criminal intent and that the canisters ended up in her luggage because she was packing hastily. Griner played for a Russian women’s basketball team in the WNBA off-season.

Whelan, a corporate security executive from Michigan, was sentenced in 2020 to 16 years in prison on espionage-related charges he and his family say are manufactured. The U.S. government regards both him and Griner as wrongful detainees.

Though Richardson said he was cautiously optimistic, and even though there is recent precedent for prisoner swaps, such deals aren’t easy.

“The relationship between the United States and Russia is quite toxic,” he said. “The geopolitical differences many times override the humanitarian issues that we need to deal with.”

_____

Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

You May Also Like

Andre McDonald gets 20 Years for killing wife

Andre McDonald after being sentenced to 20 years in prison (KSAT screengrab)…

GOP Rep. Mark Green Plans to Use Title 42 to Fight Fentanyl Crisis

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mark Green (R-TN) is readying a plan…

Intruder breaches base of Air Force One, shot fired

WASHINGTON – Another intruder has breached the home of Air Force One,…

Neighbour's shock as 'woman in blanket' taken away after two children and baby stabbed in Huddersfield home

He spoke of his shock after the children were stabbed in the…

Texas attorney shot by Cheney during 2006 hunting trip dies

Harry Whittington, the man who former Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot…

Prisoner Attempts To Use Cops To Harass Ex-Girlfriend – Scioto County Daily News

1 Prisoner Attempts To Use Cops To Harass Ex-Girlfriend A request for…

3 face life in rapper’s slaying

It’s been almost five years since up-and-coming rapper Jahseh Onfroy, better known…

Denmark’s defense minister takes sick leave after checkup

COPENHAGEN – Denmark’s defense minister has taken a leave of absence for…

City cancels corn mill proposed by China-based company

() — A controversial corn milling plant in Grand Forks, North Dakota,…

Abortion Health Emergency Declaration Not Off the Table for Biden Administration

A public health emergency declaration on abortion is not completely off the…

California trio plead guilty, supplied fentanyl linked to Wise County teen overdoses | WJHL

ABINGDON, Va. (WJHL) — A California trio, who was previously indicted for…

Man, 28, recovering from surgery after being 'attacked by group outside Sheffield shop'

South Yorkshire Police say the victim was punched by two men from…