American Griner, Whelan, could be freed from Russia by year’s end, former US diplomat says

NEW YORK—WNBA star Britney Griner and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan detained in Russia could be released by the end of the year, Bill Richardson said during a visit to Moscow in September. said the former ambassador to the United Nations.

In an interview with CNN on Sunday, Richardson said he met Russian officials and individuals close to Russian President Vladimir Putin during his visit, but his visit was not representative of the United States.

“I am cautiously optimistic about Greiner. [and] Richardson, a former governor of New Mexico who has personally worked to secure the release of American detainees abroad, said.

Richardson added that he believed the exchange of detainees would include two Russians in exchange for two Americans. I didn’t do it.

When asked if the two Americans would be released by the end of the year, he said: Now, I hate making predictions, but yes. “

Griner, a two-time Olympic basketball gold medalist and US citizen, was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison after pleading guilty to drug charges on Aug. 4. He claimed he inadvertently broke the law when traveling with vape cartridges containing oil.

Whelan, who holds US, UK, Canadian and Irish passports, was convicted of spying in 2020 and sentenced to 16 years in prison. he denied his charges.

American basketball player Britney Griner
U.S. basketball player Britney Griner (Evgenia Novozhenina) was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with illegal cannabis possession during the reading of a court ruling in Khimki, a suburb of Moscow, Russia, on August 4, 2022. /Reuters)
Former U.S. Marine Corps Paul Whelan
Former US Marine Paul Whelan, detained and accused of espionage, stands in his defendant’s cage during a sentencing hearing in Moscow on June 15, 2020. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

The Biden administration said in late July that it had submitted a “substantial proposal” to secure the release of the two Americans.

Negotiations are taking place amid a break in relations between the two countries after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

The White House said last week that it had not yet received a “significant counteroffer.”

Richardson said he felt Moscow was “ready to talk” from Russian officials he met. He did not identify officials.

The Biden administration has distanced itself from Richardson’s visit and efforts in Russia, with senior U.S. officials saying in recent weeks that civilians cannot negotiate on behalf of the U.S. government.

Richardson said on Sunday that he had coordinated his work with the White House in an attempt to secure the release of US journalist Danny Fenster, who was detained in Burma (also known as Myanmar) and released last year. He mentioned his previous efforts, including