In the affair surrounding US basketball player Brittney Griner, who was arrested in Russia, the Kremlin has called public speculation about a possible prisoner exchange counterproductive. "If we discuss with them any nuances related to the exchange issue, this exchange will never happen," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to the Interfax agency. "The Americans have already made this mistake," he criticized the public demands from Washington.
Earlier, on the fringes of a ministerial meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov once again tied Moscow's willingness in principle to an exchange of prisoners to the condition that it use diplomatic channels for such negotiations and not go through the press.
Griner is accused of that
US basketball player Griner has been sentenced to nine years in Russia for drug possession. The athlete was arrested at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport in February with a small amount of hashish. During the baggage check, the police found so-called vape cartridges and hash oil on her. It is said to have been 0.5 grams. Griner pleaded guilty. The White House criticized the conviction as "illegitimate".
The United States had previously initiated an exchange of prisoners under Secretary of State Antony Blinken. On the American side, Paul Whelan, who has been sentenced to 16 years in prison for alleged espionage, is also up for discussion alongside Griner. According to media reports, Russia wants to bring arms dealer Viktor But, who is stuck in the USA, back home.
Moscow wants that
Moscow is said to be demanding the release of the "Tiergarten murderer" from Berlin. In August 2019, a Georgian was shot dead in the Kleiner Tiergarten park in Berlin. The Berlin Court of Appeal had sentenced a Russian to life imprisonment. The judges were convinced that he acted on behalf of Russian state authorities. Russia denies such allegations.
Even before Griner's conviction, the United States had initiated a prisoner exchange. On the American side, Paul Whelan, who has been sentenced to 16 years in prison for alleged espionage, is also up for discussion alongside Griner. According to media reports, Russia wants to bring arms dealer Viktor But, who is stuck in the USA, back home.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is also in Phnom Penh, said on Friday: "We have, as you know, made a substantive proposal that Russia should engage with us. And Secretary of State Lavrov publicly stated this morning that they ready to do just that through the channels we have put in place and we will follow that up." Blinken also criticized "the fact that the Russian government is using unlawful detention to advance its own agenda and use individuals as political pawns".