- The Kremlin wants prisoner-swap negotiations for Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan to be “discreet.”
- Russian spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned that “megaphone diplomacy” from the US “will not lead to results.”
- The Biden Administration has offered to trade arms dealer Viktor Bout for the detained Americans.
Russia wants prisoner-swap negotiations with the US for detained prisoners Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan to be “discreet.”
During a Tuesday conference call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said his country’s still believes “that any exchanges of information on this topic should be discreet,” according to Reuters.
The Biden Administration reportedly offered to free notorious convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for the release of both the WNBA superstar and former US Marine. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken confirmed that a deal had been offered last week but hesitated to offer further details on the negotiations.
Reuters reported on Tuesday that Peskov was surprised at Blinken’s public comments.
“Any exchange of information on the subject should be discreet without any ‘loudspeaker diplomacy,'” he told reporters, according to the Associated Press. “Public exchange of positions will not yield any result.”
Since the initial trade offer, Russia has extended a counter-proposal; In addition to Bout, the Kremlin wants the US to help free an additional convict — a Russian national who was tried, sentenced, and imprisoned for murder in Germany.
John Kirby, the Biden administration’s National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications, called the Kremlin’s counteroffer “a bad faith attempt to avoid a very serious offer and proposal that the United States has put forward.”
“Holding two American citizens hostage in exchange for an assassin in a third-party country is not a serious counteroffer,” Kirby said, adding: “We urge Russia to take [our] offer seriously.”
Griner was first stopped at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport on February 17 after Russian customs agents allege they found vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage. She has been detained ever since, with the US government classifying her as “wrongfully detained” in May and her trial for drug smuggling charges beginning two months after that.
Griner’s proceedings in Russia continued on Tuesday with her defense team attempting to undermine the validity of the tests Russia performed on the vape cartridges that were found in her luggage, according to CNN. Though her attorneys have approached the entire trial as an opportunity to bolster appeals for leniency, Insider’s sources have expressed skepticism Russia will show the 6-foot-9 Phoenix Mercury center any mercy in sentencing.
The trial could come to close as soon as Friday with a sentence following shortly after, Reuters reported. Griner’s lawyer said the star basketball player is nervous, as she’s up against a Russian conviction rate that exceeds 99% and she faces up to 10 years in prison if she’s found guilty.
She “still knows that the end is near, and of course, she heard the news so she’s hoping that sometime she could be coming home, and we hope, too,” Griner’s lawyer said on Tuesday, CNN reported.