Russian Foreign Minister Responds to United States’ Prisoner Swap Offer for Brittney Griner

by Patrick Norton

On Wednesday, news broke that the United States had an offer on the table to bring Russian captives WNBA star Brittney Griner and former U.S Marine Paul Whelan home. In the proposed deal, Russia receives United States prisoner and world famous arms dealer Viktor Bout. Bout – known as the Merchant of Death – has been in United States federal custody since 2008.

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said on Wednesday that he planned to participate in a phone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pertaining to the matter, However, since the press conference, little detail became available.

Lavrov responded on Friday, saying no discussions were ongoing through his office. However, regarding Blinken’s statements, the Foreign Minister said, ” I will listen to what he has to say.” On Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “Normally, the public learns about it when the agreements are already implemented.”

While the public remains relatively in the dark, the apparent negotiations seem like a step forward in the process. Blinken’s comments on Wednesday marked the most fruitful development in the case, coming shortly after Griner’s testimony in Russian court. Russia authorities arrested Griner 162 days ago for possession of illegal substances. Airport security found a vape cartridge with hashish oil in the WNBA star’s luggage.

Brittney Griner’s Russian Captivity Captured in TIME Cover

Calling Griner’s stay in a Russian prison her “fight for freedom”, the captive graces the latest cover on TIME Magazine. While American’s remain split on the country’s decision to negotiate for Griner’s freedom, many took to Twitter to express their thoughts on the magazine cover.

Some voiced extreme displeasure, calling the artistry, “a little dramatic.” Others highlighted the preferential treatment because of her status as a professional athlete, asking the current administration to show the same regard for “regular” people. But supporters littered the replies of TIME’s post, too.

While the controversy of the cover rages online, much more dire matters remain at hand. The State Department’s election cycle priorities begin to lean into view, bringing plenty of spotlight to the upcoming negotiations. Should the United States send home a notorious arms dealer nicknamed the Merchant of Death? Or should the country step in and bring home an American athlete and former U.S. Marine?