Russia demands the release of a spy detained in Germany in exchange for Paul Whelan


Russia refuses to release Paul Whelan along with Brittney Griner unless a former colonel from Russia’s domestic spy agency currently in German custody is also released as part of any prisoner exchange, officials say. The US told CNN, even if the US provided the names of several other Russian prisoners held in the US with whom they were willing to deal.

The US was unable to fulfill its request for former colonel Vadim Krasikov because he was serving a life sentence for murder in Germany.

CNN first reported exclusively in August that the Russians had demanded the release of Krasikov along with Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer serving a 25-year prison term in the US, in exchange for Whelan and Griner.

American officials have quietly asked the Germans if they would be willing to include Krasikov in the sale, a senior German government source told CNN earlier this year. But in the end, the United States was unable to secure Krasikov’s release. Sources from Germany say the German government is not willing to seriously consider bringing Krasikov – who assassinated a Georgian citizen in broad daylight in Berlin in 2019 – into a potential deal.

The US has made several other offers to the Russians to try to get them to agree to include Whelan in the exchange, sources said. Among the names brought up by the US was Alexander Vinnik, a Russian citizen who was extradited to the US in August on charges of money laundering, hacking and extortion. Sources said the US also offered to exchange Roman Seleznev, a Russian cybercriminal who is currently serving a 14-year prison sentence in the US.

Seleznev’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Frédéric Bélot, a lawyer who represented Vinnik in France before being extradited to the US, told CNN on Friday that he was not aware of any current discussions between Moscow and Washington about bringing Vinnik into a meeting. potential prisoner exchanges.

But Bélot says he could see Vinnik as part of future prisoner swap talks.

“Surname [Vinnik and Whelan] become part of a possible ‘candidate’ for the next swap,” Bélot said in a text message to CNN.

Since Vinnik was extradited to the US in August, Bélot has directly appealed to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to help secure Vinnik’s release from US custody.

But in the end, the Russians said they would only be willing to trade one person they consider to be a spy – Whelan, who was convicted of espionage charges in 2019 – for one of Russia’s own spies: Krasikov .

The National Security Council declined to comment. A senior Biden administration official admitted to CNN on Thursday night that the Russian side has repeatedly asked that someone not be detained by the US, even as the US made a number of different proposals. In the end, the Russians kept asking for the same thing that the US simply couldn’t accommodate, the official said

“We’ve shown openness when it comes to what’s actually available to us, and only received a response from a request for something that wasn’t available to us,” the official said, repeating. that the Russians refused what was offered to secure Whelan’s release. .


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