In the wake of the nine-year prison sentence for American women’s basketball star Brittney Griner, Russia said on Friday August 5 that it was “ready” to discuss a prisoner exchange with the United States. The player, sentenced by a Russian court in a controversial case of ” drug traffic “found herself in spite of herself plunged into the geopolitical crisis between Washington and Moscow, in the midst of the conflict in Ukraine.
US President Joe Biden called Thursday a“unacceptable” the conviction of the 31-year-old double Olympic champion, the United States accusing Moscow of instrumentalizing her case to extract concessions from Washington. The American administration has claimed for several days that it has submitted to the Kremlin a proposal to obtain the release of Mme Griner, but Russian diplomacy repeated that an exchange could only be discussed once the verdict had been passed.
A first conversation
“We are ready to discuss this subject, but only within the framework of the channel [diplomatique] which was agreed upon by Presidents Putin and Biden”, said the head of Russian diplomacy, Sergei Lavrov, during a trip to Cambodia. The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, specified that this specific channel of communication to negotiate the exchanges of prisoners had been the subject of an agreement between MM. Biden and Putin during talks in Geneva last year.
Without success, the White House “urged” on Thursday Russia to accept its “serious offer” of exchanges to repatriate Mme Grind. The head of the American diplomacy, Antony Blinken, who had already had talks with Mr. Lavrov last week about an exchange, declared on Friday that the United States would ” Continue “ discuss it with Russia. He also considered that the conviction of Mme Griner illustrated “the Russian government’s use of illegitimate detentions to advance its interests by using individuals as political pawns”.
Stopped with cannabis-based vaping liquid.
Brittney Griner, considered one of the best basketball players in the world, was sentenced Thursday to nine years in prison for drug trafficking by a court in Khimki, near Moscow. This heavy prison sentence raised a wave of indignation, especially in the world of sport. She had been arrested in February at a Moscow airport with cannabis-based vaping liquid. She admitted to having been in possession of this substance, however claiming to have brought it to Russia inadvertently and to use it legally in the United States as a painkiller.
She had come to Russia to play during the American offseason, a common practice for WNBA basketball players, who often earn more money abroad than in the United States. The sportswoman is one of several American citizens currently detained in Russia and whose release Washington wants.
Washington said last week it had made an offer ” important “ et “serious” to get the return of Mme Griner and Paul Whelan, an American serving a 16-year prison sentence in Russia for ” spying “.
According to several American media, it would be a question of exchanging a famous Russian arms trafficker detained in the United States, Viktor Bout, against Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan. Mr. Bout, arrested in Thailand in 2008 and serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States, is nicknamed the “Merchant of Death”. His extraordinary journey was one of the film’s inspirations Lord of War, in which Nicolas Cage plays a cynical arms dealer.
The wife of the arms dealer, Alla Bout, also said Thursday that she hoped for an exchange, expressing her « compassion » to those close to Brittney Griner. “May God make sure that our countries find an agreement”said M.me Bout to the RIA Novosti news agency.
Neither Russia nor the United States have confirmed, and Moscow insists on its desire to keep the negotiations confidential, annoyed by statements made by American officials. “If Americans still decide to engage in public diplomacy and make resounding statements (…) it is their business, and even their problem”said Friday Mr. Lavrov, estimating that Washington ” do not arrive “ to work “calmly and professionally” on many topics.