There is optimism among US officials that an agreement can finally be reached with the Russian authorities to secure the return of Brittney Griner.
Griner was detained at a Moscow airport after authorities found cannabis oil in her luggage on Feb. 17. During a court hearing earlier this month, Griner pleaded guilty to drug charges. The outstanding athlete said she was in a hurry to pack when she unintentionally placed the oils in her luggage. If convicted, she faces a sentence of 10 years in a Russian prison.
Efforts to bring the basketball superstar back stateside have been in the works for months. The latest iteration of those plans is a deal to trade Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for the release of Griner, and fellow American Paul Whelan.
Congressman Colin Allred has been part of discussions to help Griner regain her freedom. While speaking to TMZ, he said “the ball is entirely in the Russians’ court. I think we’ve made a very good offer to them based on what we know they want. “ He added that while he can not go into the specifics of the deal, he believes President Joe Biden’s administration is taking all of the necessary steps to ensure Griner is released.
He added that Russian officials will probably still want to go through this “sham trial of theirs” and issue a sentence before making a trade. “Basically, I think it’s a matter of time, but I think it’s going to get done,” said Allred.
The former NFL player said, the spectacle surrounding Griner’s ongoing Russian court proceedings should not influence the public’s opinion of the U.S. government’s negotiation efforts. “She’s been wrongfully detained in the first place, and now wrongfully tried and she’ll be wrongfully convicted…What matters now is how do we convince them to let her come home. And that I think is in a good place, at least in terms of us and our willingness to do what we gotta do,” he said.
Now that a substantial is on the table, Allred said the prospect of Griner coming home looks better than ever. “The issue here is the Russian government. We’re doing everything we can,” he said before adding that he is hopeful Griner could be home by the end of the summer.