President Biden said he “hopes” for a positive outcome in the case of women’s basketball player Brittney Greener, who was convicted of illegally smuggling drugs into Russia and sentenced to nine years in prison.
“I’m hopeful. We’re working hard,” Mr. Biden told reporters Friday during a ceremony to sign two bills aimed at cracking down on those who commit fraud under the COVID-19 relief package.
Mr Biden on Thursday criticized Russia’s sentence to nine years in a penal colony for Ms Griner for having e-cigarettes and a small amount of marijuana oil in her luggage, calling the decision “unacceptable”.
About a week ago, reports emerged that the government offered Viktor Bout, a notorious arms dealer known as the “Death Merchant”, in exchange for Ms Greener and the ex-Marine, also detained in Russia. Paul Whelan, about a week later, Biden made the promise.
On Friday, a day after Ms. Griner was convicted, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow was ready to discuss the proposal.
Ms Greener and her wife have issued a personal appeal to Mr Biden for action. More than 1,000 black female leaders have been pressuring Biden to make a deal that would allow her to return safely. Last month, the president spoke by phone with Cheryl, wife of Ms. Greener.
The basketball star was arrested about six months ago and charged with trying to smuggle less than a gram of cannabis oil in her luggage. She pleaded guilty to the charges last month, saying she accidentally packed the drugs while in a hurry.
Ms Greener’s lawyers have vowed to appeal her sentence.