Russian officials respond to US proposal for Britney Griner and Paul Whelan: ‘No deals yet’

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Russian officials on Thursday reacted to reports from the Biden administration that a “substantial offer” had been made to bring home WNBA player Brittney Griner and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who claims the deal has yet to be struck.

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said during a news conference Wednesday that the Biden administration made the offer weeks ago but made no mention of a deal involving Victor Bouta Russian arms dealer known as the “Dealer of Death” who is cited in several reports as a participant in a potential prisoner exchange.

WNBA star and two-time Olympian Brittney Griner was escorted to the courtroom for a hearing in Khimki, Russia, near Moscow, on Wednesday, July 27, 2022.

WNBA star and two-time Olympian Brittney Griner was escorted to the courtroom for a hearing in Khimki, Russia, near Moscow, on Wednesday, July 27, 2022.
(Evgenia Novozhenina/Poolside photo via AP)

Asked about the offer during a press conference the next day, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the prisoner swap negotiations are usually done behind the scenes.

US OFFERS ‘ESSENTIAL OFFER’ ABOUT WELCOMING BRITNEY GREENER AND PAUL WHELAN HOME FROM RUSSIA

“We know that such issues are discussed without such disclosure of information,” he said. “Usually the public finds out about this when the agreements are already being implemented.”

Peskov stressed that “no agreements have been agreed upon” and declined to provide details.

Paul Whelan, a former US Marine charged with espionage and arrested in Russia in December 2018, stands in the defendant's cage awaiting sentencing on June 15, 2020.

Paul Whelan, a former US Marine charged with espionage and arrested in Russia in December 2018, stands in the defendant’s cage awaiting sentencing on June 15, 2020.
(Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova separately said that while the Kremlin and US officials are in talks, “there is no concrete result yet.”

“We proceed from the premise that the interests of both parties should be taken into account in the course of negotiations,” she said.

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Rebecca Koffler, a Russian-born former US intelligence officer and expert on Russia and Vladimir Putintold Fox News Digital on Thursday that this skirmish between Russia and Western media could make it harder to “predict” what will happen.

“It is difficult now to accurately predict the outcome of these negotiations, because, on the one hand, the Russians want to return Viktor Bout, since he is a former military intelligence officer, probably indirectly connected to Putin himself,” she explained.

Russian President Vladimir Putin presides over a meeting of the Security Council in Moscow on April 22, 2022.

Russian President Vladimir Putin presides over a meeting of the Security Council in Moscow on April 22, 2022.
(Mikhail Klimentiev, Sputnik, Kremlin pool, photo via AP)

“On the other hand, with the counterproductive narrative that comes out of Washington — calling Putin a war criminal (even though he may have deserved it), the Senate approved yesterday a resolution that aims to declare Russia a “sponsor of terrorism” — and the general crisis in the American Russian relations, Washington’s expectations that Russia will play with them are naive.

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She continued: “Putin knows that President Biden is under pressure to bring these Americans home as his popularity at home is rapidly declining – he will almost certainly try to win concessions from the Biden administration. Putin is in no hurry to accept Washington’s offer.”

Earlier this month, Griner pleaded guilty to drug smuggling charges.

Earlier this month, Griner pleaded guilty to drug smuggling charges.
(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlyanichenko, Poland)

Grinner pleaded guilty to a drug-smuggling charge earlier this month, adding that her “intent” was not to break Russian law. The US State Department classified Griner as “wrongfully detained”. She admitted that she had e-cigarette cartridges containing cannabis-derived oils, but had no intention of breaking the law. She could face up to 10 years in prison.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.