- Kremlin warns US against “megaphone diplomacy”.
- The White House says the exchange proposal is serious.
- Biden says Greiner’s sentence is “unacceptable.”
MOSCOW: Russia said on Friday it was ready to privately discuss a prisoner swap with the United States, a day after a Russian court sentenced American basketball star Brittany Griner to nine years in prison on drug charges. Heard.
The lawsuit against Gurner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) star, has plunged her into a geopolitical conflict after Russia sent troops into Ukraine on February 24.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden had previously agreed on a diplomatic channel that should be used to discuss a possible prisoner exchange.
“We are ready to discuss this topic, but within the framework of the channel agreed upon by Presidents Putin and Biden,” Lavrov said during a visit to Cambodia.
“If the Americans decide to resort to public diplomacy again … that’s their business and I would even say it’s their problem.”
US Secretary of State Anthony Blanken said Washington is ready to negotiate with Moscow through established diplomatic channels. He said Greiner’s conviction highlighted his wrongful detention by Russia and compounded the injustice he suffered.
The Kremlin has remained silent on the possibility of a swap, saying it would never happen if it was discussed in the media.
“The Americans have already made this mistake, suddenly deciding to use megaphone diplomacy to solve these problems,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
“That’s not how they get resolved.”
Peskov declined to comment on the court’s decision about Gurner. When asked if he could be pardoned, he said the procedure for amnesty was enshrined in Russian law.
Greiner’s conviction – which Biden called “unacceptable” – could pave the way for a prisoner swap that would involve the 31-year-old athlete and a Russian arms dealer serving a 25-year sentence in the US.
The United States has already made what Blanken called a “substantial offer” to secure the release of Americans detained in Russia, including Gurner and former Marine Paul Whalen.
‘A Serious Proposal’
White House national security spokesman John Kirby said after Greiner’s sentencing that the United States had made a serious proposal to Russia.
“We urge them to accept it,” he said. “They should have accepted it weeks ago when we first built it.”
Kirby did not provide further details on the US proposal.
Sources familiar with the situation have told Reuters that Washington has offered to exchange Russian arms smuggler Viktor Bout for Greiner and Whalen.
Russia had tried to include Vadim Krasikov, a convicted murderer imprisoned in Germany, in the proposed exchange, a source familiar with the process also told Reuters.
Russia and the United States exchanged prisoners in April, trading ex-Marine Trevor Reed for Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, who was serving a 20-year sentence in the United States.
Griner was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport on February 17 with marijuana-laced vape cartridges in his luggage.
The United States argued that he had been wrongfully detained and was being used as a political bargaining chip by Moscow. Russian officials rejected the U.S. claim, saying Greiner had broken Russian law and should be judged accordingly.
Greiner, who was prescribed medical cannabis in the United States to relieve pain from old injuries, said he made an honest mistake by inadvertently packing his vape cartridges while rushing for his flight.
She pleaded guilty to the changes against her but insisted she did not intend to break Russian law.
Cannabis for medicinal and recreational purposes is illegal in Russia.