Just one day after Brittney Griner was given a nine-year prison sentence, Russia has made it clear that it is prepared to start secret negotiations between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden regarding a prisoner swap to release Griner.
The Russian foreign ministry warned the US not to use “megaphone diplomacy” and said it would be open to discussing a prisoner exchange through currently established channels. The Kremlin has previously kept quiet about the possibility of a prisoner swap to release Griner, claiming that the nation would suspend talks if the media reported on swaps.
At the ASEAN summit on Friday, Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, told reporters that “there is a specific channel that has been agreed upon by [Putin and Biden], and no matter what anyone says publicly, this channel will remain in place.” “That error was already committed by the Americans when they abruptly decided to utilize megaphone diplomacy to settle these disputes. They are not resolved in this manner.”
Griner was given a nine-year prison term after being found guilty of transporting drugs into Russia on Thursday. The basketball player was first taken into custody in February, but Russian officials insisted that a decision in her case needed to be reached before talking about a prisoner exchange.
Griner had entered a guilty plea to the charges in the hopes that the judge would be persuaded by her expressions of contrition and reduce her sentence. She stated that although she knew it was unlawful to bring cannabis into Russia, she used cannabis oil for severe pain in the United States.
Shortly after Griner’s nine-year sentence was announced on Thursday, American officials replied, with Biden describing it as “unacceptable.”
Griner’s case has gained international attention, and her fate is influenced by both the tense diplomatic ties between the United States and Russia and the release of other Americans jailed there. Paul Whelan, a former Marine who has been imprisoned in Russian custody since 2018 and was found guilty of espionage in 2020, would also be released as part of the prisoner exchange.