A day after Brittney Griner was found guilty of cannabis possession and given a nine-year jail sentence, Russia’s top diplomat said that the Kremlin was open to discussing a prisoner swap with the US on Friday.
Regardless of what anybody says publicly, according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin already agreed to utilize a confidential diplomatic channel to negotiate potential prisoner exchanges.
While in Cambodia for the meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Lavrov spoke to the media about the possibility of a swap.
“We are ready to discuss this topic, but within the framework of the channel that was agreed upon by presidents Putin and Biden.If the Americans decide to once again resort to public diplomacy, that is their business and I would even say that it is their problem.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Lavrov’s American colleague, said that Washington was ready to pursue negotiations with Moscow through the normal diplomatic channels.
There have been talks of exchanging Paul Whelan, a 31-year-old WNBA star and former Marine who is now serving a 25-year term in Russia for his release in exchange for Victor Bout, an infamous arms dealer known as the Merchant of Death.
Blinken said in a statement following the announcement of Griner’s verdict on Thursday at the Khimki court outside of Moscow that her punishment added to the unfairness of her unjust confinement.
The Kremlin has kept quiet about the possibility of a swap, claiming that if talks of prisoner exchanges appeared in the public, they would never take place.
Regarding Griner’s decision, Peskov declined to comment. He said that the clemency process was codified in Russian statutes when asked if she could be pardoned.
In order to secure Griner and Whelan’s release, the US has already offered what Blinken called a sizable offer.
Kirby made no more mention of the idea, but people with knowledge of the situation claim that the Biden administration has proposed trading Bout for the two imprisoned Americans.
Additionally, according to reports, Russia attempted to include the imprisoned German assassin Vadim Krasikov in the trade plan.
According to a representative of the State Department, Blinken and Lavrov did not interact at the conference in Cambodia.