Lavrov says Russia is able to talk about prisoner swap with US after Griner conviction | CNN

Lavrov says Russia is able to talk about prisoner swap with US after Griner conviction | CNN

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CNN
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The US and Russia have indicated they’re prepared to carry talks over a prisoner swap, a day after basketball star Brittney Griner was convicted of drug smuggling and sentenced to 9 years in jail for carrying lower than a gram of hashish oil by means of a Moscow airport.

Russia’s international minister Sergey Lavrov advised reporters in Cambodia that the Kremlin is “prepared to debate this matter, however throughout the framework of the channel that has been agreed by the presidents,” state information company RIA Novosti reported.

“There’s a specified channel that has been agreed upon by [Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden], and it doesn’t matter what anybody says publicly, this channel will stay in impact,” Lavrov reportedly stated Friday on the Affiliation of Southeast Asian Nations summit.

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

“We put ahead, as you already know, a considerable proposal that Russia ought to have interaction with us on. And what Overseas Minister Lavrov stated this morning and stated publicly is that they’re ready to interact by means of channels we’ve established to just do that. And we’ll be pursuing that,” Blinken advised reporters at a press briefing.

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

Russian authorities officers requested final month {that a} former colonel from the nation’s home spy company, who was convicted of homicide in Germany final yr, be included within the US’ proposed swap of infamous arms seller Viktor Bout for Griner and Paul Whelan, a number of sources accustomed to the discussions advised CNN.

Whelan, a US citizen, has been held by Russia since 2018 and was convicted by a Russian court docket in 2020 on espionage prices that he has strenuously denied. Griner’s conviction has raised related considerations that she is getting used as a political pawn in Russia’s battle towards Ukraine. The US State Division classifies the pair as wrongfully detained.

Griner, a Ladies’s Nationwide Basketball Affiliation star, pleaded responsible to carrying hashish oil in her baggage as she traveled by means of 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.”

Previous to the decision on Thursday, Griner apologized to the court docket and requested for leniency in an emotional speech. “I by no means meant to harm anyone, I by no means meant to place in jeopardy the Russian inhabitants, I by no means meant to interrupt any legal guidelines right here,” she stated.

“I made an trustworthy mistake and I hope that in your ruling that it doesn’t finish my life right here. I do know all people retains speaking about political pawn and politics, however I hope that, that’s removed 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 advised reporters, “places a highlight on [Washington’s] very important concern with Russia’s authorized system and the Russian authorities’s use of wrongful detentions to advance its personal agenda utilizing people as political pawn.”

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

Earlier Friday, a US State Division official advised reporters there had been no “critical response” from Russia on a proposed swap. The identical official stated Blinken and Lavrov had not met whereas on the Cambodia summit, and that Blinken had no plans to take action.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov advised reporters Russia wouldn’t talk about the prospect of a switch publicly. “If we talk about by means of the press some exchange-related nuances, then these exchanges won’t ever happen. The Individuals have already made this error,” he stated Friday.

Peskov, requested whether or not Putin may pardon Griner, stated that “there’s a sure [legal] process that the convicted can resort to, in accordance with the legislation.” In line with the Russian legislation, to start out the clemency process, a convict wants to put in writing a petition to the Russian president.

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

Close to the top of these 42 seconds, members of the gang began chanting, “Carry her dwelling! Carry her dwelling!”

This story has been up to date with extra developments.

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