Russia Reiterates Interest in Prisoner Exchange for Brittney Griner
Author: Alex Cooper
Russia has repeated that its willing to participate in a prisoner exchange with the U.S. for the freedom of Brittney Griner.
The news comes only a day after Brittney Griner’s legal team confirmed that the lesbian Basketball star has been moved to a penal colony about seven hours outside of Moscow.
Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, told journalists on Friday that the Kremlin and the Biden administration are “working professionally along the specifically designated channel,” according to the New York Times, citing the Russian news agency Interfax. “We have yet to arrive at a common denominator, but there is no doubt that Viktor Bout is among those discussed.”
“We are definitely counting on a positive outcome,” he added.
Bout, who is nicknamed “the Merchant of Death,” is serving a 25-year prison sentence in the U.S. for conspiring to sell weapons to groups that authorities said were targeting U.S. citizens. The Times reports that Russia has made repeated attempts to secure Bout’s release.
On Wednesday, U.S. and Irish Embassy officials visited Paul Whelan, who has been detained in Russia since 2018, CNN reports. Whelan holds U.S., Canadian, British, and Irish citizenship.
“As the lack of an exchange drags on, I’m increasingly concerned about how this will affect his ability to continue,” Whelan’s brother, David Whelan, said in an email to the outlet. “It must be awfully hard to maintain hope in his position, knowing of the possibility of freedom, no matter how much stability he is able to carve out. And the possibility of an exchange has given him some hope, even thoughts to what he might have to do to restart his life. It will be devastating for him if there is not a resolution that sees him free, brings him home, with our family.”
Russia imprisoned Whelan over espionage charges, which he has denied.
Griner, who played center for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and won two gold medals playing for the U.S. National Team, was detained by Russia’s Federal Customs Service in February after vape cartridges with illegal hashish oil were found in her luggage.
This summer, Griner pleaded guilty and was convicted on drug charges, and sentenced to nine years in prison. She said she brought the cartridges, for which she had a prescription and used for relief for chronic pain, into Russia by accident and didn’t intend to break the law. She later appealed her conviction, but a Russian court subsequently upheld the decision and sentence.
The Biden administration maintains that Griner and Whelan are wrongfully detained.
Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Alex Cooper