Washington appears willing to swap Russian arms dealer Bout, who is serving a 25-year prison sentence in the US, for basketball player Brittney Greiner
Russia said today that it is in talks with the United States on a prisoner exchange, but there is no agreement on the exchange of the American basketball player Brittney Griner with Russian arms dealer Viktor Butt.
The representative of the Kremlin, Dmitry Peskovtold reporters that “so far there are no agreements in this area”.
The representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zakharova, he stated that talks on the exchange of prisoners have been going on for some time but without any result.
He was responding to comments by the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinkenaccording to which Washington made Moscow a “serious offer” to secure her release Greener and former US Marine Paul Whelan, also held in Russia.
“The issue of mutual exchange of Russian and American citizens detained on the territory of the two countries was once discussed by the presidents of Russia and the United States,” Zakharova said, apparently referring to discussions that took place before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
“They instructed the relevant authorized structures to conduct negotiations. These are being carried out by the relevant departments. A tangible result has yet to be achieved.”
Negotiations should take into account the interests of both sides, he said.
Blinken said yesterday, Wednesday, that he would discuss the cases of Griner and Whelan with his Russian counterpart in the coming days.
“When we discuss such issues, we do not carry out information attacks,” Peskov said in comments that appeared to show anger at Washington’s very open diplomacy on the issue.
Yesterday, a source familiar with the situation confirmed a report by CNN that Washington is willing to trade the Russian arms dealer Butt, who is serving a 25-year sentence in the US, as part of a plea deal.
Whelan’s Russian lawyer has previously said he believes Moscow wants Bout to be part of a swap with Whelan.
Griner, who was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February with cartridges of inhalant cannabis oil in her luggage, was in the courtroom yesterday for the latest hearing in her trial on drug-related charges. The next hearing is set for August 2.
“From a legal point of view, an exchange is possible only after a court verdict,” Griner’s lawyer in Russia, Maria Blagovolina, said in a statement.
Whelan was sentenced in 2020 to 16 years in prison in Russia, accused of espionage. He denied the charges, saying he was involved in a sting operation.
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