By MATTHEW LEE and ERIC TUCKER
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. has offered a deal to Russia aimed at bringing home WNBA star Brittney Griner and another jailed American, Paul Whelan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday. In a sharp reversal of previous policy, Blinken also said he expects to speak with his Kremlin counterpart for the first time since before Russia invaded Ukraine to discuss the deal and other matters.
Blinken’s comments marked the first time the U.S. government has publicly revealed any concrete action it has taken to secure the release of Griner, who was arrested on drug-related charges at a Moscow airport in February and testified Wednesday at her trial.
Reviled and revered Russian arms dealer is back in spotlight
MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian arms dealer labeled the “Merchant of Death” who once inspired a Hollywood movie is back in the headlines with speculation around a return to Moscow in a prisoner exchange.
If Viktor Bout, 55, is indeed eventually freed in return for WBNA star Brittney Griner and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, as some published reports suggest, it would add to the lore around a charismatic arms dealer the U.S. has imprisoned for over a decade.
Depending on the source, Bout is a swashbuckling businessman unjustly imprisoned after an overly aggressive U.S. sting operation, or a peddler of weapons whose sales fueled some of the world’s worst conflicts.