NBA News: The Kremlin says it is willing to discuss the possibility of Brittney Griner, an American basketball player, exchanging places with prisoners, but it has strongly advised Washington against making the matter public.
Griner, 31, was found guilty on Thursday of cocaine possession and smuggling and was given a nine-year prison term.
Griner, who is regarded as one of the greatest players in WNBA history, has been in custody since February 17 after Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow police allegedly discovered cannabis oil-infused vape cartridges in her luggage. After competing there since 2014, she was going back.
The two-time US Olympic champion and eight-time WNBA all-star with the Phoenix Mercury listened to an interpreter read Judge Anna Sotnikova’s decision with an expressionless face, but her attorneys later said she was “extremely unhappy.” In addition, Griner received a punishment of one million roubles (approximately £13,400).
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed a trade to release Griner last week, and on Friday, the two were both in Cambodia for an Asian meeting.
The judgement and punishment, which came amid escalating tensions between the US and Russia over Ukraine, were blasted as “unacceptable” by US President Joe Biden.
Lavrov stated that although Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin could only discuss a deal through secret channels, Moscow was prepared to consider a prisoner swap.
Lavrov said: “There is a special channel [of communication] agreed upon by presidents. No matter what anyone says publicly, this channel remains relevant. If the Americans decide to rely on public diplomacy and make loud statements that they are going to take some steps, that is their business, and I would say, their problem.
“Because Americans often can’t stand agreements on quiet, professional work, not only on this topic, on many other topics. That’s the answer: we are ready to discuss this topic, but within the framework agreed upon by the presidents, (Vladimir) Putin and (Joe) Biden.”
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