After Brittney Griner conviction, Russia is able to focus on prisoner swap with US, Lavrov says

Russia’s overseas 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 Affiliation of Southeast Asian Nations summit.

Shortly later, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken mentioned on the identical 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.

The feedback from all sides recommend {that a} negotiation course of, which has already confirmed advanced, might 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 12 months, be included within the US’ proposed swap of infamous arms vendor Viktor Bout for Griner and Paul Whelan, a number of sources aware of the discussions informed CNN.
Whelan, a US citizen, has been held by Russia since 2018 and was convicted by a Russian courtroom in 2020 on espionage expenses that he has strenuously denied. Griner’s conviction has raised related issues that she is getting used as a political pawn in Russia’s struggle in opposition to 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 way of a Moscow airport on February 17. She testified in courtroom 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 courtroom 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 lead to 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 Division official informed reporters there had been no “serious response” from Russia on a proposed swap. The identical 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 focus on 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 might pardon Griner, mentioned that “there is a certain [legal] procedure that the convicted can resort to, in accordance with the law.” In response to 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 courtroom, and a 42-second second of silence was held for Brittney Griner.

Close to the tip 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.