Russia is ready to discuss prisoner swap with US after Griner conviction
Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters in Cambodia that the Kremlin is “ready to discuss this topic, but within the framework of the channel that has been agreed by the presidents,” state news agency RIA Novosti reported.
Shortly later, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at the same summit that the US will “pursue” talks with Russia.
“We put forward, as you know, a substantial proposal that Russia should engage with us on.
And what Foreign Minister Lavrov said this morning and said publicly is that they are prepared to engage through channels we’ve established to do just that.
And we’ll be pursuing that,” Blinken told reporters at a press briefing.
The comments from each side suggest that a negotiation process, which has already proven complex, could accelerate in the coming days.
Whelan, a US citizen, has been held by Russia since 2018 and was convicted by a Russian court in 2020 on espionage charges that he has strenuously denied.
Griner’s conviction has raised similar concerns that she is being used as a political pawn in Russia’s war against Ukraine.
Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool/ReutersPrior to the verdict on Thursday, Griner apologized to the court and asked for leniency in an emotional speech.
Earlier Friday, a US State Department official told reporters there had been no “serious response” from Russia on a proposed swap.
The same official said Blinken and Lavrov had not met while at the Cambodia summit, and that Blinken had no plans to do so.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Russia would not discuss the prospect of a transfer publicly.