Russian officials claim they are ready to negotiate a prisoner exchange to free the U.S. citizens jailed in Russia but said the American embassy in Moscow hasn’t been taking the right steps in maintaining dialogue.
Russia has claimed in the past they are open to the idea of a prisoner swap which would include WBNA star Brittney Griner and U.S. Marine Corps veteran Paul Whelan for the Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, but negotiations have been anything but smooth.
“We have stated many times that we are ready for negotiations to resolve the fate of U.S. citizens convicted in Russia and Russian citizens in the U.S,” Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Reuters.
According to the Kremlin, the White House’s “megaphone diplomacy” tactics would not help efforts toward a prisoner exchange, instead urging closed negotiations.
It’s hard to know if Russian officials are genuinely willing to negotiate the release of Griner and other prisoners, but the White House says they are committed to working through all available avenues to bring Brittney and Paul home safely.
President Joe Biden met with the family members of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan at the White House Friday to reassure them they were working around the clock to get them home.
“The President held the meetings to reiterate his continued commitment to working through all available avenues to bring Brittney and Paul home safely, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.
“He asked after the well-being of Elizabeth and Cherelle and their respective families during this painful time. The President appreciated the opportunity to learn more about Brittney and Paul from those who love them most, and acknowledged that every minute they are being held is a minute too long.”
Griner was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison for bringing cannabis oil into the country. Lawyers for detained basketball star Brittney Griner have filed an appeal, but her guilty verdict won’t likely be overturned.
Brittney Griner’s lawyer told People that “Brittney is stressed and very much concerned with the future,” and that her client was “quite happy to know that she’s not been forgotten and that there are some possible developments, but is ”quite realistic about what’s going on.”
Though the White House has been tight lipped about their negotiations with Russia they say they remain committed to getting the U.S. prisoners home.
“We all admire the courage of the Whelan and Griner families in the face of these unimaginable circumstances, and we remain committed to reuniting them with their loved ones,” said Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
Griner was arrested at Sheremetyevo Airport on Feb. 17.