Brittney Griner: US, Russia to discuss prisoner swap

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The United States and Russia have agreed to discuss a prisoner swap a day after a Russian court sentenced basketball star Brittney Griner to nine years in prison for a drug offense.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington was prepared to engage with Moscow through the established diplomatic channels.

He said Griner’s conviction highlighted her wrongful detention by Russia and further compounded the injustice that had been done to her.

The United States has already made what Blinken called a “substantial offer” to secure the release of Americans detained in Russia, including Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said after Griner’s sentencing that the United States had made Russia a serious proposal.

“We urge them to accept it. They should have accepted it weeks ago when we first made it.” Kirby said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden had previously agreed on a diplomatic channel that should be used to discuss potential prisoner exchanges.

“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.” 

Lavrov said during a visit to Cambodia.

“Megaphone diplomacy”

The Kremlin warned the United States against turning to “megaphone diplomacy” in the case of Griner, saying it could only derail efforts to secure a potential swap.

Griner’s sentence could pave the way for a prisoner swap that would include the 31-year-old athlete and a prolific Russian arms dealer serving a 25-year prison term in the United States.

Political bargaining chip 

Griner was arrested on February 17 at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport with vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage.

Also read: US basketball star Brittney Griner jailed for nine years on drug charges

The United States argued she was wrongly detained and being used as a political bargaining chip by Moscow.

Russian officials dismissed the U.S. claims, saying Griner had broken Russian law and should be judged accordingly.

Griner, who had been prescribed medical cannabis in the United States to relieve pain from chronic injuries, said she had made an honest mistake by inadvertently packing her vape cartridges as she rushed to make her flight.

She pled guilty to the charges against her but insisted that she did not intend to break Russian law.

Cannabis is illegal in Russia for both medicinal and recreational purposes.

 

Zainab Sa’id

Source Reuters
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