Friday, October 7

The US and Russia will talk about the exchange of prisoners after the conviction of Griner

  • Blinken said the US would continue its efforts to broker a deal for the release of Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, and former US Marine Paul Whelan, who was jailed in Russia in 2020 on espionage charges he denies.

The United States Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, and the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, said on Friday that they are willing to continue the conversations about a prisoner exchange involving WNBA star Brittney Griner and another imprisoned American.

The two top diplomats spoke separately on the sidelines of a meeting of foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, a day after a Moscow court sentenced Griner to nine years in prison for drug charges. They did not meet or speak in person during the conference.

President Joe Biden called Griner’s punishment “unacceptable” and said the White House would work tirelessly to secure his release soon after sentencing. “There is a special channel agreed by the presidents,” Lavrov told a news conference. “Whatever is said publicly, That channel is still open.

Blinken indicated that the US will continue its efforts to negotiate a deal for the release of Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, and the former US Marine. Paul Whelan, who was jailed in Russia in 2020 on espionage charges that he denies. “We put forward, as you know, a substantial proposal that Russia should engage with us,” Blinken said. “What Foreign Minister Lavrov said this morning and publicly is that they are prepared to engage through the channels that we have established to do just that and we will follow.”

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Last month, the Biden administration proposed changing to Griner and Whelan by Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer known as the “merchant of death” who was sentenced to 25 years in 2012, and a second Russian also being held in a US jail, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

Although Bout has long been the subject of efforts of the Kremlin pTo return to Russia, officials in Moscow have been inclined to reject the offer because they believe their terms are unequal, say people familiar with the Kremlin’s thinking.

Griner, 31, was convicted of drug possession and smuggling following her arrest at a Moscow airport after customs officials found vape cartridges contained cannabis oil in your luggage. He pleaded guilty on July 7, saying his action was unintentional and his lawyers had asked the court for lenient punishment.

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A Russian official requested through a back channel to be included in any swap deal to Vadim Krasikov, a former official with ties to the national spy agency who was convicted of murder in 2021 in Germany, people familiar with the discussions said. Another potential target for Russia could be Vladislav Klyushina Kremlin member extradited from Switzerland to the US in December on insider trading charges, several people in Moscow with knowledge of the matter said.

Klyushin may be much more valuable to Russia and the US. Russian intelligence concluded that he has access to documents related to the hacking of Democratic Party servers during the 2016 presidential election, according to people in Moscow close to the Kremlin and the security services. One of Klyushin’s suspected co-conspirators, who remains at large, was previously indicted in connection with Russia’s plot to interfere in the vote.

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