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Griner's fate remains unclear after U.S. submits offer to Russia

APTOPIX Russia Griner Trial
Posted at 8:35 PM, Jul 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-28 01:15:09-04

PHOENIX — It's been five months since Phoenix Mercury All-Star, Brittney Griner was arrested at a Moscow Airport in Russia, after vape cartridges containing cannabis oil were found in her luggage.

On Wednesday, Griner testified after pleading guilty to drug charges earlier this month.

She’s facing charges that could lead to a 10 year prison sentence.

“I did not intend to do this, I did not intend to smuggle or bring any substance into Russia,” she said on Wednesday.

Griner testified about communication struggles with Russian officials, at times using a translator app on her phone.

The cannabis was recommended by a doctor to help with pain from sports injuries.

This all comes on the same day the U.S. discussed a proposed prisoner swap, the first action plan to get American prisoners jailed in Russia, back stateside.

“We put a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago,” said U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken

The U.S. Secretary of State looks to send U.S. prisoner Viktor Bout back to Russia, in exchange for Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, who is jailed in Russia for espionage.

American convicted of spying in Russia, gets 16 years
Paul Whelan, a former U.S. marine who was arrested for alleged spying, listens to the verdict in a courtroom at the Moscow City Court in Moscow, Russia, Monday, June 15, 2020. The Moscow City Court on Monday convicted Paul Whelan on charges of espionage and sentenced him to 16 years in maximum security prison colony. Whelan has insisted on his innocence, saying he was set up. The U.S. Embassy has denounced Whelan's trial as unfair, pointing that no evidence has been provided. (Sofia Sandurskaya, Moscow News Agency photo via AP)

Bout is a former Soviet military officer serving a 25-year sentence on charges of conspiring to kill Americans and supporting a terrorist group.

He's known as the “merchant of death.”

“They may just want Vicktor Bout but they may just want something more,” said William Pomeranz, Director of the Kennan Institute.

Pomeranz researches at the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute aiming to help Americans understand Russia and its surrounding regions.

With Griner's defense expecting a verdict in her drug trial sometime in mid-august, Pomeranz says Wednesday’s proposal is the first of many in negotiations where Russia has the upper hand.

Russia could look to get more from the deal by asking the U.S. to lift sanctions.

“We've made this a priority, (Russia) has said they want Viktor Bout back but they didn't make it a political issue, They didn't make it front page news, they didn't bet that diplomacy would solve the problem, so they are in the driver seat," said Pomeranz.

The Wall Street Journal Reports the Russian Foreign Ministry is pushing back against the Secretary of State about that prisoner swap proposal, saying they haven't received anything formally.

The next hearing in Griner's trial is expected on August 2nd.