Eight days after being sentenced to 9.5 years in a Russian prison, the country confirmed the first discussion to swap Brittney Griner and another American prisoner, Paul Whelan, is underway.
The Washington Post reports that Russian officials confirmed this announcement on Thursday.
Discussions are taking place via a channel President Biden and Putin agreed to back in June last year.
Ivan Nechayev, a spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, stated:
Instructions were given to authorized structures to carry out negotiations,” Nechayev said. “They are being conducted by competent authorities.”
Russia stated they were ready to proceed with talks about a prisoner swap last week but reiterated that they would decline the prisoner swap if the US continued to discuss details.
Biden told White House reporters he’s “hopeful” and “we’re working hard” to get Brittney Griner back home.
Why Did Russian Officials Arrest Paul Whelan?
JUST IN: Family of former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who has been detained in Russia for more than three years, say they now have “a little bit of hope” after learning the U.S. has offered a prisoner swap to bring him and Brittney Griner home.
Paul Whelan’s twin brother speaks o… pic.twitter.com/TkvRdU0CRU
— Jonathan Brooks (@Jonatha72174591) August 11, 2022
Authorities arrested Whelan in 2018 and convicted him in 2020 for spying. Whelan maintained someone framed him, and the US says he’s “wrongfully detained.”
Brittney Griner’s Conviction
On Thursday, a Russian court found Brittney Griner guilty of attempted drug smuggling and possession.
According to CNN, the guilty verdict says Brittney had criminal intent when she tried to enter the country with less than 1 gram of cannabis oil in her luggage.
Before the conviction, Russian prosecutors asked the court to consider giving the WNBA star 9.5 years in their closing. Shortly after news of the verdict broke, Brittney’s lawyers confirmed the Russian court obliged the prosecutors’ request. As a result, Griner received nine years in a penal colony, per The New York Times. Additionally, the judge fined Brittney about $16,300–one million rubles.
Roomies, what do you think of this?