The Biden administration has said it is working to get Brittney Griner out of Russian custody.
She has been detained in Russia since February, when authorities accused her of carrying hash oil in her luggage.
An unnamed official told Politico she would likely remain imprisoned for at least a few more months.
As the Biden administration continues negotiations with Russia to free Brittney Griner, sources told Politico she will likely remain incarcerated for at least several more months.
“The Russians are making maximalist demands in exchange for Griner,” an unnamed US official told Politico’s NatSec Daily and West Wing Playbook.
Griner, a WNBA player from the Phoenix Mercury, was taken into Russian custody on February 17. Authorities accused her of carrying hash oil in her luggage during a trip to a Moscow airport. Her trial began on July 1 and she faces up to 10 years in prison in Russia.
The US State Department maintains that Griner is “wrongfully detained” and on Wednesday Biden told Griner’s wife, Cherelle, that he was “working to secure Brittney’s release as soon as possible.”
However, Russia is likely asking for a Russian arms dealer, dubbed “the Death Dealer”, in exchange for Griner, Tass, a Russian news source, reported in May.
According to Politico, the United States has been reluctant to release Viktor Bout in the past, who was sentenced to 25 years in 2012.
“Viktor Bout has been enemy number one in the international arms trade for many years, arming some of the world’s most violent conflicts,” Manhattan US lawyer Preet Bharara told the BBC in a statement after his conviction.
Bout’s attorney says his release is likely necessary for all US citizens detained in Russia to return home.
“It’s been very clearly communicated to the US side that they’re going to have to be realistic about Viktor Bout if they expect any further prisoner swaps,” Bout’s attorney Steve Zissou told The New York Times. . “My feeling is that no American is going home unless Viktor Bout is sent home with him.”
Russia has also detained two US Navy veterans, including Paul Whelan, accused of espionage and sentenced to 16 years, and recently released Trevor Reed.
On April 27, the United States entered into a prisoner exchange with Russia, allowing Reed to return in exchange for a drug trafficker, Konstantin Yaroshenko, who had been detained by the United States since 2010. Russia detained and convicted Reed in 2019 for attacking Russian authorities.
Reed’s release was seen by some as a positive indication for Griner, meaning there is a possibility for his release amid the Russian-Ukrainian war.
“All the pressure is on Biden when the pressure should be on Putin,” the unnamed official told Politico, adding that Griner “hits all of those cultural buttons,” including being black, gay, and a famous athlete. .
Reed himself argued that Brittney’s release might be more complicated.
“Brittney, especially in Russia, is probably in a lot of ways worse off than me because Brittney is African-American. There’s a lot of people in Russia who are racist,” Reed said during a rally in Houston for basketball. star in June.
“They also have a government that systematically discriminates against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people under Vladimir Putin,” Reed added. “And those things are obviously going to make Brittney’s time there much more difficult than if they had just taken another American hostage.”
Griner recently wrote a letter to President Biden asking him to do whatever he can to bring her back to the United States.
“As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, my family, my friends, my Olympic jersey or any achievement, I am terrified of be here forever,” Griner said in his Independence Day letter.
Read the original article on Business Insider