Russia said on Friday it was “ready to discuss” a prisoner swap with Washington at the presidential level.American basketball star Britney Greenner.
Although tensions between Russia and the US have soared since the launchthe former Cold War adversary appears to be getting closer to a new prisoner exchange.
The White House has urged Russia to accept its offer to release Greener and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan..
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that Moscow was willing to discuss the matter.
“We are ready to discuss this topic, but only within the framework of the (communication) channel established by President Putin and President Biden,” Lavrov told a news conference on a visit to Cambodia.
He added: “The president has established a special channel that works despite certain public statements.”
Secretary of State Anthony BlinkenOn Friday, Washington said it would “hold” discussions with Russia.
He also said Griner’s conviction underscored “the Russian government’s use of illegal detentions to advance its own agenda and to use individuals as political pawns.”
WNBA player Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison in Russia on Thursday and fined 1 million rubles ($16,590) for possession and smuggling of drugs.
The two-time Olympic basketball gold medalist and women’s NBA champion was detained at a Moscow airport in February after she was found carrying an e-cigarette pod containing cannabis oil in her luggage.
Phoenix Mercury players come to Russia during the offseason in the US to play club basketball with UMMC Ekaterinburg — a common avenue for American stars seeking extra income.
Grinerbut said she did not intend to break the law or use banned substances in Russia.
“I hope the court understands that this was an honest mistake, one that I made while rushing, under pressure, trying to recover from the pandemic and trying to get back to my team,” Griner said in his final statement before sentencing.
Griner testified that she was licensed by a U.S. doctor to use medicinal marijuana to relieve the pain of her multiple injuries and never passed a drug test.
Medical marijuana is not allowed in Russia.
Griner’s legal team said they planned to appeal the “unreasonable” sentence.
President Biden called Greener’s conviction “unacceptable” and said Washington would “work tirelessly” to secure her release.
Blinken has said Washington has made a “substantial offer” to swap Greener and Whelan.
The most high-profile Russian prisoners in the U.S. area 55-year-old arms dealer known as the “Death Merchant”, is serving a 25-year sentence.
There was no official confirmation that Washington offered to exchange him.
Bout’s wife, Ala, expressed sympathy for Greener’s family on Friday and said she hoped her husband and the American athlete would be able to return home.
“Sympathy has no citizenship and nationality, it is a universal human emotion,” she told Russian news agency RIA Novosti, expressing hope that Russia and the United States would “make a deal.”
Moscow and Washington have conducted a prisoner swap since the start of Moscow’s offensive against Ukraine.
April, WashingtonFor convicted drug smuggler Konstantin Yaroshenko.
in aFrom Greener, who was sent to the White House last month, the WNBA player wrote that she was terrified that she might be held in Russia “forever.”
Griner’s wife, Cherelle, told “CBS Mornings” that when she read the letter, she could feel the fear Griner was going through.
“She’s probably the toughest person I know, so she doesn’t say things like that lightly. It means she’s really scared that she might never see us again. You know, I feel the same way,” Sherrell said.