Russia’s warning to United States on Brittney Griner prisoner swap after prison sentencing
Detained WNBA star Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison by a Russian judge for drug charges stemming from an incident in a Moscow airport back in February. Many spoke out about the harsh sentence, including United States president Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Biden again vowed to do everything in his power to bring the WNBA star back home. The best way to do so is through a prisoner swap, which Blinken appears to have taken the first step towards. As anticipation builds for the potential swap, Russia sent this warning to the United States, per the Associated Press.
“The Kremlin said Friday that it’s open to talking about a possible prisoner exchange involving American basketball star Brittney Griner but strongly warned Washington against publicizing the issue…In an extraordinary move, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke last week to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, urging him to accept a deal under which Griner and Paul Whelan, an American jailed in Russia on espionage charges, would go free.”
Russia seemed to indicate it was open to a prisoner swap with Brittney Griner but made one thing very clear: do not publicize the issue.
Blinken had spoken to Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov last week, calling on his counterpart to accept a prisoner swap deal involving Griner and ex-Marine Paul Whelan, who has been detained on espionage charges.
Per the Associated Press, the United States’ Blinken and Russia’s Lavrov were both present at a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Neither Blinken nor Lavrov made moves to communicate with each other.
That- and Russia’s firm rhetoric on the prisoner swap- certainly doesn’t paint the picture that talks are off to a good start. However, it’s at least encouraging that Russia has expressed a willingness to even have those talks.
It’s a glimmer of hope in the Brittney Griner situation.