Lavrov says Russia is ready to discuss prisoner swap with US after Griner conviction

Russia’s international minister Sergey Lavrov informed reporters in Cambodia that the Kremlin is “ready to discuss this topic, but within the framework of the channel that has been agreed by the presidents,” state information company RIA Novosti reported.

“There is a specified channel that has been agreed upon by [Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden], and no matter what anyone says publicly, this channel will remain in effect,” Lavrov reportedly mentioned Friday on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit.

Shortly later, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken mentioned on the similar summit that the US will “pursue” talks with Russia.

“We put forward, as you know, a substantial proposal that Russia should engage with us on. And what Foreign Minister Lavrov said this morning and said publicly is that they are prepared to engage through channels we’ve established to do just that. And we’ll be pursuing that,” Blinken informed reporters at a press briefing.

President Joe Biden mentioned afterward Friday that he is hopeful about efforts to safe Griner.

“I’m hopeful. We’re working hard,” Biden informed reporters exterior the White House after a invoice signing.

The feedback from either side counsel {that a} negotiation course of, which has already confirmed advanced, may speed up within the coming days.

Russian authorities officers requested last month that a former colonel from the nation’s home spy company, who was convicted of homicide in Germany final 12 months, be included within the US’ proposed swap of infamous arms dealer Viktor Bout for Griner and Paul Whelan, a number of sources conversant in the discussions informed CNN.
Whelan, a US citizen, has been held by Russia since 2018 and was convicted by a Russian court in 2020 on espionage fees that he has strenuously denied. Griner’s conviction has raised comparable issues that she is getting used as a political pawn in Russia’s battle towards Ukraine. The US State Department classifies the pair as wrongfully detained.

Griner, a Women’s National Basketball Association star, pleaded responsible to carrying hashish oil in her baggage as she traveled via a Moscow airport on February 17. She testified in court docket that she was conscious of Russia’s strict drug legal guidelines and had no intention of bringing hashish into the nation, saying she was in a rush and “stress packing.”

Prior to the decision on Thursday, Griner apologized to the court docket and requested for leniency in an emotional speech. “I never meant to hurt anybody, I never meant to put in jeopardy the Russian population, I never meant to break any laws here,” she mentioned.

“I made an honest mistake and I hope that in your ruling that it doesn’t end my life here. I know everybody keeps talking about political pawn and politics, but I hope that, that is far from this courtroom,” she continued.

Griner’s attorneys had hoped that her responsible plea and statements of regret would end in a extra lenient sentence.

Her conviction, Blinken informed reporters, “puts a spotlight on [Washington’s] 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 pawn.”

“The same goes for Paul Whelan,” Blinken added.

Earlier Friday, a US State Department official informed reporters there had been no “serious response” from Russia on a proposed swap. The similar official mentioned Blinken and Lavrov had not met whereas on the Cambodia summit, and that Blinken had no plans to take action.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov informed reporters Russia wouldn’t talk about the prospect of a switch publicly. “If we discuss through the press some exchange-related nuances, then these exchanges will never take place. The Americans have already made this mistake,” he mentioned Friday.

Peskov, requested whether or not Putin may pardon Griner, mentioned that “there is a certain [legal] procedure that the convicted can resort to, in accordance with the law.” According to the Russian regulation, to start out the clemency process, a convict wants to put in writing a petition to the Russian president.

Before the beginning of Thursday’s WNBA recreation between Griner’s Phoenix Mercury and the Connecticut Sun, members of each groups linked arms round middle court docket, and a 42-second second of silence was held for Brittney Griner.

Near the top of these 42 seconds, members of the group began chanting, “Bring her home! Bring her home!”

This story has been up to date with further developments.

CNN’s Martin Goillandeau, Anna Chernova and Daniel Allman contributed to this report.

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