December 6, 2023

One day after the WNBA star Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison on charges of drug smuggling and possession of cannabis in Russia, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said her conviction “further exacerbates the injustice” of her situation.

Blinken was speaking to the media during a meeting with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Cambodia — an event also attended by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

“It shines a light on our very important turn with Russia’s legal system and the Russian government’s use of illegal detention to advance its own agenda by using individuals as political pawns.” Blinken said.

According to Associated Press, Lavrov and Blinken did not interact during the meeting, despite sitting close to each other at the discussion table. Lavrov expressed that Russia is ready to discuss a prisoner exchange, but did not want to discuss the issue publicly.

President Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin created a channel dedicated to communication between Russia and the United States in June 2021, and that’s where Lavrov said he wanted to hold the conversation.

“If the Americans try again to engage in public diplomacy and make strong statements about their intention to take certain steps, it’s their business, I would even say their problem,” he said. “Americans often find it difficult to keep agreements for quiet and professional work.”

This is similar to what Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in Moscow, according to the AP. He said there will be no exchange if the matter is discussed through the media.

“The US has already made mistakes, trying to solve such problems through ‘microphone diplomacy.’ They are not solved like that,” said Peskov.

Blinken has not publicly disclosed any details of what the United States is offering Russia, but CBS News reported that “people familiar with the proposal” say Griner, along with another American, corporate security director Paul Whelan, could be swapped for notorious arms dealer Victor Booth, who is serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States.

Griner has been detained in Russia since February 17, when she was arrested at Sheremetyevo International Airport after customs found vapor cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage.

For a full explanation of Griner’s condition, Click here.

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