The US says it will “pursue” Russia‘s latest offer to discuss the prisoner swap involving detained basketball star Brittney Griner. Moscow says it is “ready” for talks a prisoner swap with Washington at the presidential level. (AFP) Russia is ready to discuss prisoner exchange with the US, but it should be at the level of presidents, the country's foreign minister has said
The US says it will “pursue” Russia‘s latest offer to discuss the prisoner swap involving detained basketball star Brittney Griner. Moscow says it is “ready” for talks a prisoner swap with Washington at the presidential level. (AFP) Russia is ready to discuss prisoner exchange with the US, but it should be at the level of presidents, the country's foreign minister has said.
“If the Americans again decide to engage in public diplomacy…that's their business and their problem,” Sergey Lavrov said on Friday, a day after a Moscow court sentenced WNBA player Brittney Griner to nine years in prison.
For his part, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States will “pursue” Russia's latest offer to discuss the prisoner swap involving detained basketball star Griner.
“[Russian] Foreign Minister Lavrov said this morning… that they are prepared to engage” on a swap for the detained American, Blinken said at a foreign ministers' meeting in Cambodia. “And we'll be pursuing that.”
Below are prisoners who could potentially be involved in a swap.
Moscow‘s latest offer came a day after Phoenix Mercury player Brittney Griner was sentenced by a Russian court to nine years in a penal colony on a drug smuggling charge. (AP) Brittney Griner
Griner was on Thursday sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony and ordered to pay a fine of $16,590 for possessing and smuggling narcotics.
She was arrested at a Moscow airport in February for possessing vape cartridges with cannabis oil. She said it was prescribed by a US doctor to relieve pain for her many injuries.
The arrest came just days before Moscow launched its offensive in Ukraine on February 24.
The 31-year-old Phoenix Mercury player came to Russia to play basketball for a club in Russia's Yekaterinburg during the off-season — a common path for American stars seeking additional income.
The two-time Olympic gold medallist and Women's NBA champion pleaded guilty to the charges, but said she did not intend to break the law or use the banned substance in Russia.
Viktor Bout, 55, is considered the highest-profile Russian imprisoned in the United States. (Reuters) Viktor Bout
Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout was in 2012 sentenced to 25 years in a US jail after he was accused of arming rebels in some of the world's bloodiest conflicts.
The 55-year-old is considered the highest-profile Russian imprisoned in the United States.
The former Soviet air force officer and polyglot was arrested in Thailand in 2008 during a sting operation in which US agents posed as Colombia's FARC rebels seeking weapons.
He was dubbed the “Merchant of Death” by former British minister Peter Hain for supplying weapons to war-torn Angola and Liberia.
READ MORE: Who is Viktor Bout? Blinken’s latest bargaining chip with Russia
Former US marine Paul Whelan is accused by Russian security services of spying. (Reuters) Paul Whelan
Former US marine Paul Whelan, 52, was arrested in December 2018 and accused by Russian security services of spying.
He was detained on a visit to Moscow to attend a wedding when he took a USB drive from an acquaintance, thinking it contained holiday photographs.
He did not look at the contents of the drive, but his lawyer said it contained “state secrets”.
The former security official at a vehicle parts company — who also has British, Canadian and Irish passports — was sentenced to 16 years on espionage charges in June 2020.
During his closed-door trial, Whelan insisted he was innocent.
READ MORE: US, Russia carry out prisoner swap despite tensions over Ukraine
Russian officials say Marc Fogel was earlier employed by the US embassy in Moscow and benefited from diplomatic immunity until May 2021. (Moskva24/east2west) Marc Fogel
A teacher at an international school in Moscow, US citizen Marc Fogel was in June sentenced to 14 years in prison on charges of “large-scale” cannabis trafficking.
Russian customs officers said they found marijuana and hash oil in Fogel's luggage when he arrived from New York at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport.
Fogel said the marijuana was prescribed in the United States for medical purposes after a spinal operation.
Russia has not made the use of cannabis legal for medicinal purposes.
Russian officials said Fogel was earlier employed by the US embassy in Moscow and benefited from diplomatic immunity until May 2021.
READ MORE: Russia, US thank Türkiye for assistance in prisoners' swap