A senior Russian official suggested last week that the detention of American basketball star Britney Griner may be nearing resolution, but US officials quickly dismissed those claims.
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said on Friday a new round of prisoner exchanges could involve Griner, who was deported to a Russian penal colony earlier this month, and Viktor Bout, now a 25-year-old Russian arms dealer. He said there was “activity”. 1 year in prison in the US.
Ryabkov’s comments were quoted in Russian media.
“We haven’t found common ground yet, but definitely Viktor Bout is among those being discussed and clearly wants a positive outcome,” Ryabkov said. As reported by ESPN“Americans have shown constant activity and are addressing this through appropriate channels.”
But the State Department splashed cold water on this, saying Russia was not a serious party to the negotiations.
“We will not comment on the details of any proposals other than to say that the Russian Federation has made substantive proposals that have consistently failed to negotiate in good faith,” a State Department spokesman said. Said. According to ESPN quote“The U.S. government continues to follow up on that offer and proposes potential alternative avenues with the Russian government. Failure to do so is contrary to the official statement of the Russian government.”
In exchange for Bout, the US has proposed a prisoner exchange with Russia that would secure the release of both Griner and Paul Whelan, a US citizen detained by Russia on espionage charges since 2018. So far, no agreement has been reached.
Griner, the star of WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, has been detained in Russia since being arrested on drug charges at a Moscow airport in February (authorities found cannabis oil in her luggage).
Griner pleaded guilty in July, but said it was a mistake and did not intend to break the law.
Last month, the court dismissed Griner’s appeal.
Earlier this month, Griner’s lawyers said their client deported to a Russian penal colony.
U.S. officials met with Griner earlier this month for the first time since her arrest in February when she was returning to Russia to play for UMMC Yekaterinburg, the team she has played in the WNBA’s offseason since 2014. .
“She is reportedly doing as well as one would expect under the circumstances,” White House spokeswoman Carine Jean-Pierre said of the meeting.
“As I said before, the U.S. government has made an important offer to the Russian people to resolve the unacceptable and unlawful detention of current U.S. citizens Britney Griner and Paul Whelan,” Jean-Pierre said. added. “Also, despite the lack of good faith negotiations by Russia in the weeks that followed, the U.S. government continued to follow up on that offer, proposing alternative ways it might move forward with Russia through all available channels. I kept doing it.
President Joe Biden, who met with Griner’s family in September, said at a press conference after the midterm elections earlier this month that he hoped Russian President Vladimir Putin would be happy to negotiate his release.
“Now that the election is over, I hope Putin will talk to us and talk more seriously about prisoner swaps,” Biden said.