bring 'em home
The Biden administration has reportedly offered to exchange Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms trafficker serving time in the U.S., for Americans Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, who have been held in Russia since February and 2018, respectively, CNN reports per individuals familiar with the matter.
"We communicated a substantial offer that we believe could be successful based on a history of conversations with the Russians," a senior administration official told CNN Wednesday. "We communicated that a number of weeks ago, in June."
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has also confirmed the proposed deal, The Associated Press reports.
The Justice Department initially resisted offering up Bout for both Whelan and Griner, who are stuck in Russia on charges pertaining to alleged espionage and drug possession, respectively. But top DOJ officials eventually relented when the arrangement garnered support from State Department and White House officials, "including Biden himself," CNN writes, per sources. Otherwise, the U.S. government does its best to avoid prisoner swaps, lest they incentivize other countries to use Americans as "bargaining chips."
Notably, both countries will have to wait to finalize any such deal until Griner's ongoing drug trial concludes. The WNBA star in July pleaded guilty to the charges but said she unintentionally brought the cannabis vape cartridges in question into Russia. She could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.