The Russian Foreign Ministry announced today that it is engaging in “quiet diplomacy” with the United States over a possible prisoner exchange involving American basketball star Brittney Greiner.
Greiner was sentenced in Russia on August 4 to nine years in prison on drug trafficking charges. US President Joe Biden had described the sentencing decision as “unacceptable”.
Washington, which maintains that Greiner was unjustly arrested, has offered to exchange her for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States.
“Quiet diplomacy is underway and should bear fruit if Washington follows through and does not engage in media propaganda to score points before the elections,” said Ivan Nechayev, a spokesman for Russia’s foreign ministry, referring to the midterms. US elections in November.
The Kremlin has previously announced that US officials are undermining efforts to secure a prisoner exchange by opting for “loudmouth diplomacy” in this case.
Washington has proposed swapping former arms dealer Victor Booth for Greiner and ex-Marine Paul Whelan, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.
Whelan, who holds American, British, Canadian and Irish passports, was sentenced in 2020 to 16 years in prison on charges of espionage. He denied the accusations.
Greiner, who used medical cannabis in the United States to deal with pain from chronic injuries, was arrested on February 17 at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport with vaping cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage.
Cannabis in Russia is illegal for both medical and recreational use.
Greiner, who pleaded guilty to the charges, said she made an honest mistake by accidentally packing the vaping cartridges as she was rushing to catch her flight to Russia.