Russia ‘ready to discuss’ prisoner swap following Brittney Griner’s conviction

Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in Russian prison on Thursday for drug smuggling (Pictures: Reuter/AFP/Getty)

has indicated they are ready to negotiate a prisoner swap, one day after American basketball star in Russian prison.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters in Cambodia on Friday that the Kremlin is ‘ready to discuss this topic, but within the framework of the channel that has been agreed by the presidents,’ state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

‘There is a specified channel that has been agreed upon by (Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President ), and no matter what anyone says publicly, this channel will remain in effect,’ Lavrov said.

His comments come a day after Griner was sentenced to nine years in Russian prison on drug smuggling charges for carrying cannabis oil into the country. She was also fined 1million rubles ($16,700).

President Joe Biden condemned Griner’s sentencing.

‘It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends and teammates. My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.’

The Biden administration has reportedly offered to release a convicted Russian arms trafficker in exchange for the safe return of Griner and Whelan, another American detained in Russia.

The plan, to exchange Viktor Bout, who is serving a 25-year prison sentence in the US, for the two Americans was first reported by CNN.

‘We communicated a substantial offer that we believe could be successful based on a history of conversations with the Russians,’ a senior administration official told the news outlet.

During a press briefing Thursday, White House National Security spokesperson John Kirby said the US is pushing for Russia to accept the offer.

‘It’s a serious proposal. We urge them to accept it. They should have accepted it weeks ago when we first made it,’ he said.

Griner has been held in Russian custody for over five months after she was arrested in February at a Moscow airport after being caught at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport with cannabis oil in her luggage. Griner pleaded guilty, but has maintained that the oil was prescribed to her as a painkiller, and that she unintentionally packed it for the trip.

Before Thursday’s verdict, Griner apologized to the court and asked for leniency, saying, ‘I never meant to hurt anybody, I never meant to put in jeopardy the Russian population, I never meant to break any laws here.’

‘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 added.

Griner’s defense had hoped her guilty plea and statements of remorse would provide her with a shorter sentence. Her team intents to challenge the court decision.

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