The United States will step up talks with the Russians for a prisoner exchange involving detained WNBA star Brittney Griner, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday.
“We have, as you know, presented a substantial proposal in which Russia should engage with us. And what Foreign Minister Lavrov said this morning and said publicly is that they are prepared to engage through the channels that we have established to do just that. And we will pursue that,” Blinken told reporters at a news conference while attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) foreign ministers meeting in Cambodia.
The secretary of state said Griner’s conviction and sentence of nine years in prison “further complicates the injustice being done to her and her wrongful detention.”
Griner’s conviction “highlights the very significant concern [de Washington] with Russia’s legal system and the Russian government’s use of unjust detention to advance its own agenda using individuals as political pawns,” Blinken told reporters. “The same goes for Paul Whelan,” she added.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday that Russia was ready to discuss a high-profile prisoner exchange with the US through a diplomatic channel agreed by Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to the statement. Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.
Prisoner swap discussion is ongoing after the Biden administration offered to swap Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer serving 25 years in US prison, in exchange for two Americans held by Russia, Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan. .
The WNBA star was sentenced by a Russian court to nine years in prison for drug trafficking on Thursday.
Source: CNN Brasil