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Secretary of State Antony Brinken said Friday morning in Cambodia that the US would “pursue” a prisoner exchange with Russia for US citizens Britney Griner and Paul Whelan.
Blinken’s comments came when he was asked about statements made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers regarding the possibility of a prisoner exchange.
“As you know, we have put forward a substantive proposal for Russia to engage with us, and this morning Foreign Minister Lavrov said publicly that we are ready to engage through the channels we have established. We will pursue it,” Brinken said at a press conference in ASEAN.
The announcement comes a day after WNBA star Britney Griner was sentenced by a Russian court to nine years in prison for marijuana possession.
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Lavrov said he didn’t expect to hear from Blinken, but was surprised that Blinken didn’t reach out.
“As far as Britney Griner and Paul Whelan, a few things about it. Detention,” said Blinken.
“This reflects our very serious concerns about the Russian legal system and the use of individuals by the Russian government as political agents and the use of unjustified detention to further their policies. It’s in the spotlight, and the same goes for Paul Whelan.”
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Earlier in the day, Lavrov said Russia was “ready to discuss” the prisoner trade through diplomatic channels because a civilian framework had previously been “agreed” by Russian Presidents Vladimir Putin and Biden. said.
Lavrov said Russia was “ready to discuss this topic, but within the channels agreed by the president.”
“If Americans decide to resort to public diplomacy again, it’s their job, and I would even say it’s their problem,” Lavrov said in ASEAN.
“For those convicted in Russia and the United States, there are certain routes agreed by the president,” Lavrov added at the press conference. “No matter what anyone says publicly, this channel will remain active.”
Russia has previously warned the US not to engage in “megaphone diplomacy” as it would derail ongoing negotiations.
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President Biden issued a statement condemning Mr. Griner’s detention, saying a prison sentence was “unacceptable.”
“I urge Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends and teammates,” Biden said. “My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue all possible means.” [her] Please return home safely as soon as possible. ”