World · August 5, 2022

US and Russia approach Brittney Griner exchange talks after Lavrov said the Kremlin is “ready”

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The US will “pursue” a prisoner exchange with Russia for US citizens Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Cambodia said Friday morning.

Blinken’s comment came when he was asked about remarks made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov regarding a potential prisoner exchange at the meeting of foreign ministers at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN.

“We have, as you know, put forward a substantial proposal that Russia should engage with us. And what Foreign Minister Lavrov said this morning and publicly stated is that they are ready to engage through the channels we have established to make their own. this, and we will pursue, ”Blinken said at an ASEAN press conference.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken attends a press conference after attending the events of the 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Phnom Penh on August 5, 2022.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken attends a press conference after attending the events of the 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Phnom Penh on August 5, 2022.
(TANG CHHIN SOTHY / AFP via Getty Images)

The announcement comes the day after WNBA star Brittney Griner was sentenced by a Russian court to nine years in prison for marijuana possession.

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Blinken was asked to respond to Lavrov, who said he didn’t expect to hear from Blinken, but was surprised when Blinken didn’t contact.

“As for Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, a few things about that. I think first of all we saw Brittney Griner being sentenced to nine years in prison and this further aggravates the injustice that has been done to her and her wrongful detention. “Blinken said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (C) and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) attend the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers Meeting at the 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Phnom Penh on 5 August 2022.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (C) and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) attend the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers Meeting at the 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Phnom Penh on 5 August 2022.
(ANDREW HARNIK / POOL / AFP via Getty Images)

He added: “It highlights our very significant concern for the Russian legal system and the Russian government’s use of illicit detentions to advance its agenda, using individuals as political pawns. The same goes for Paul Whelan.” .

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Earlier in the day, Lavrov said Russia was “ready to discuss” a prisoner trade through diplomatic channels as a private framework had previously been “agreed” by Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Biden.

Lavrov said that Russia is “ready to discuss this issue, but within the framework of the channel agreed by the presidents”.

“If the Americans decide to resort to public diplomacy once again … that’s their business and I would also say it’s their problem,” Lavrov told ASEAN.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks during a press conference in Moscow, Russia on Monday, June 6, 2022.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks during a press conference in Moscow, Russia on Monday, June 6, 2022.
(Press service of the Russian Foreign Ministry via AP)

“As for the people sentenced in Russia and the United States … there is a specific channel agreed by the presidents,” Lavrov added during the press conference. “No matter what anyone publicly says, this channel will remain in effect.”

Russia previously warned the US not to engage in “megaphone diplomacy” as it would derail the ongoing negotiations.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken reviews the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers Meeting at the 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Phnom Penh on August 5, 2022.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken reviews the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers Meeting at the 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Phnom Penh on August 5, 2022.
(TANG CHHIN SOTHY / AFP via Getty Images)

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President Biden released a statement denouncing Griner’s detention and called the prison sentence “unacceptable”.

“I ask Russia to release her immediately so that she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends and teammates,” said President Biden. “My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible path to take [her] home safely as soon as possible “.