Bill Richardson, frequent hostage envoy, visits Moscow amid effort to free Brittney Griner
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson, a frequent emissary in hostage negotiations who has worked to secure the releases of WNBA star Brittney Griner and another American, Paul Whelan, imprisoned in Russia, held meetings with leaders in Moscow this week, a person familiar with the matter said Tuesday night.
The visit came as U.S. officials have continued to press Russia to release Griner, who was sentenced last month to nine years in prison in a drug possession case, and Whelan, a Michigan corporate security executive serving a 16-year sentence on espionage-related charges. The U.S. regards both as wrongfully detained.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken announced in July that the U.S. had made a “substantial proposal” to Russia to facilitate a prisoner swap. Although he did not detail the terms, a person familiar with the matter said the U.S. had offered to release convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
In in interview with the Associated Press last month, Richardson said he was hopeful of the chances of a two-for-two prisoner swap. In cases like this, Richardson said at the time, “it’s proportional — two-for two.”
The U.S. has made a ‘substantial’ offer to free Americans from Russia, but the release of Bout would be controversial.
The person who confirmed Richardson’s visit insisted on anonymity to discuss private negotiations.
The Richardson Center for Global Engagement, which Richardson founded, issued a statement that declined to comment on his visit. The nature of the dialogue and any outcome were not immediately clear.
CNN was first to report Richardson’s visit to Moscow.
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