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Russia has made a counter offer to the United States in its efforts to get WNBA star Brittney Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan back.
The Kremlin requested that a former Russian spy who was convicted of murder in Germany and is in a German prison be part of the deal, CNN exclusively reported.
That would be in addition to the inclusion of convicted Russian arms dealer and terrorist Viktor Bout who the United States offered.
The Russians communicated the request to the US earlier this month through an informal backchannel used by the spy agency, known as the FSB, that they wanted Vadim Krasikov released, the sources said. Krasikov was convicted in December of murdering a former Chechen fighter, Zelimkhan “Tornike” Khangoshvili, in Berlin’s Kleiner Tiergarten in 2019 and sentenced to life in prison.
The request was seen as problematic for several reasons, the sources told CNN, among them that Krasikov remains in German custody. As such, and because the request was not communicated formally but rather through the FSB backchannel, the US government did not view it as a legitimate counter to the US’ offer which was first revealed by CNN on Wednesday.
But underscoring how determined the Biden administration has been to get Griner and Whelan back to the US, US officials did make quiet inquiries to the Germans about whether they might be willing to include Krasikov in the trade, a senior German government source told CNN. A US official characterized the outreach as a status check on Krasikov.
The proposal never made it to the top of the German government and the offer was not seriously considered.
National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby spoke to CNN on Friday and said that Russia’s offer was a “bad faith attempt to avoid a very serious offer” and said in reference to the offer of Bout that “We urge Russia to take that offer seriously.”
“It’s just that they haven’t been willing to faithfully consider or even seriously consider the offer that we put forward. I would not say stalled. … We very much want to see Brittney and Paul come home to their families where they belong. They’re wrongfully detained there. And we’re just going to keep at that work,” he said.
A State Department official said, “In order to preserve the best opportunity for a successful outcome, we’re not going to comment publicly on any speculation.”
And on Wednesday Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States had put “a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago” for Griner and Whelan and that “our governments have communicated repeatedly and directly on that proposal.”
“I pressed the Kremlin to accept the substantial proposal that we put forth on the release of Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner,” he said.
Fox News personality Tomi Lahren is furious with the reported Biden administration plan to trade a Russian arms dealing terrorist for WNBA star Brittney Griner and Marine Paul Whelan.
“Our government has communicated repeatedly and directly on that proposal and I’ll use the conversation to follow up personally and I hope, move us toward a resolution,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said of the rumored trade.
But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “So far, there are no agreements in this area, when discussing such topics, you don’t conduct information attacks.”
But Lahren is furious that the idea is even being considered.
Wait wait we are exchanging a Russian arms dealer, the so-called “Merchant of Death” for Brittney Griner?! This is Bowe Bergdahl all over again. RIDICULOUS!
P.S. Griner hates America anyway! Like Lebron said, why does she want to come back? #griner
— Tomi Lahren (@TomiLahren) July 27, 2022
“Wait wait we are exchanging a Russian arms dealer, the so-called ‘Merchant of Death’ for Brittney Griner?! This is Bowe Bergdahl all over again. RIDICULOUS! P.S. Griner hates America anyway! Like Lebron said, why does she want to come back?” she said.