With Joe Biden having failed completely to free WNBA star Brittney Griner from her Russian cell, the Biden administration has given the okay to former NBA player Dennis Rodman to head to Russia and try to win her release.
“I got permission to go to Russia to help that girl,” Rodman told NBC News. “I’m trying to go this week.”
“That girl” is WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was handed a 9-1/2-year sentence after being arrested at a Moscow airport and charged with possessing illegal drugs.
While Griner’s sentence was typical by Russian standards of those handed out for low-level drug possession, it appears outrageous to many Americans.
For his part, Rodman has tried to position himself as a sort of unofficial ambassador to dictatorships such as North Korea and Russia. He has visited North Korea several times and has also praised Russian strongman Vladimir Putin as “actually cool.” In 2018, Rodman even claimed that the Trump White House thanked him for helping to ease tensions between North Korea and the U.S.
The Biden White House has reportedly been working on a prisoner swap deal with Russia to have Griner freed.
Though details of the possible deal remain scarce, a source close to the White House told the Associated Press that the U.S. offered the Kremlin convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for Griner and jailed security executive Paul Whelan. In April, the U.S. successfully swapped convicted Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshen in exchange for imprisoned Marine veteran Trevor Reed.
Deals between the White House and the Kremlin have been bandied about since July, but little progress has been made to obtain Griner’s freedom.
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