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Russian Foreign Minister Urges US Not to Publicize Brittney Griner Exchange Talks

Erin WalshAugust 5, 2022

EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Russia is willing to engage in discussions with the United States about a possible prisoner exchange involving detained WNBA star Brittney Griner, but it warned the U.S. government about making the exchange talks public.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters Friday, per Vladimir Isachenkov of the Associated Press:

"If the Americans again try to engage in public diplomacy and make loud statements about their intention to take certain steps, it’s their business, I would even say their problem. The Americans often have trouble observing agreements on calm and professional work."

Russian spokesperson Dmitry Peskov also said Friday "the U.S. already has made mistakes, trying to solve such problems via 'microphone diplomacy.' They are not solved that way."

Griner has been detained in Russia since Feb. 17—169 days—after being arrested at a Moscow airport for carrying vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage.

The 31-year-old pleaded guilty in Russian court last month and was sentenced on Thursday to nine years in prison and fined 1 million rubles (about $16,700) after Judge Anna Sotnikova found that she "intentionally broke the law."

The AP's Jim Heintz speculated last month that a guilty plea could be used as a tactic to speed up Griner's trial in order to negotiate a prisoner swap between Russia and the United States.

A potential prisoner swap could include Griner and Paul Whelan, who is being detained in Russia on espionage charges, in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is serving a 25-year sentence in the United States after being convicted of conspiracy to kill American citizens.

The Biden Administration classified Griner as being wrongfully detained in May, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday that her sentence "compounds the injustice that has been done to her."

"It puts a spotlight on our very significant concern with Russia’s legal system and the Russian government’s use of wrongful detentions to advance its own agenda using individuals as political pawns," Blinken said.

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