After not being open to it initially, Russia is now willing to discuss swapping Brittney Griner for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov revealed the news, CNN reported.
Lavrov told reporters in Cambodia that Kremlin is “ready to discuss this topic, but within the framework of the channel that has been agreed by the presidents.”
At the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit on August 5, Lavrov said president Joe Biden and Russian president Vladimir Putin have a “specified channel that has been agreed upon” and it will “remain in effect.”
U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken echoed these sentiments at the summit as well.
“We put forward, as you know, a substantial proposal that Russia should engage with us on,” he told reporters. “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.”
Besides Bout, Russia wants a colonel from their domestic spy agency who is a convicted murder to be included in the trade as well. Paul Whellan will be included as well. Whellan is a U.S citizen who was sentenced to 16 years in Russian prison after being accused of spying.
Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in Russian prison after pleading guilty to drug charges in Russia. During her sentencing, she said that packing her two vape cartridges with cannabis oil was “an honest mistake” but it didn’t help her case. Her legal team plans to file an appeal.
Biden promised to do everything it takes to bring her home in a statement.
“It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates,” he said. “My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.”