Former US Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson CNN told CNN in an interview on Sunday that during his tenure he met with “senior Russian officials, people close to President (Vladimir) Putin.” Trip to Moscow in September to secure the release WNBA star Brittney Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan.

Richardson told Jake Tapper on Sunday’s State of the Union” that he is working with the families of the two Americans while coordinating with the White House and that he is optimistic.

“I’m cautiously optimistic about the negotiations with Griner (and) Whelan,” he said Richardson, former governor of New Mexico who has long campaigned for the release of Americans imprisoned abroad. He represents the Griner and Whelan families.

Richardson reiterated that the exchange would probably jail two Russians in the US. Although he did not name their names, there was much speculation that one of them would be a convicted Russian arms smuggler Victor fight.

Tapper asked if Griner and Whalen to be released at the end of this year. Richardson sounded confident.

“I think so. Well, I hate making predictions, but yeah,” Richardson replied.

“I know (the families are) very emotional and this is a very emotional time. All I can say is that the Biden administration is working hard on this. Me too,” Richardson said. “We coordinate, but we don’t always agree on every tactical decision. But I will not interfere in their process. I’m just giving you my assessment after two visits to Russia on behalf of American hostages.”

That’s what the White House said last week that it has not yet received a “serious counter-offer” from Moscow, although Richardson Tapper said he sensed from the Russian officials he met that Moscow was “ready to talk”.

Griner, two-time Olympic champion, was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison on August 4 after pleading guilty to drug offenses of accidentally having less than a gram of cannabis oil in her…

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