The United States will consider a Russian offer to exchange American basketball player Brittney Griner, who was sentenced in Russia to nine years for drug smuggling, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said. On Friday, August 5, at a meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, he commented on the statement of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Washington will seek the transfer of Greiner to the United States, he stressed.

Earlier, as part of ASEAN events in Cambodia, Lavrov said that there is a special channel created by the US and Russian presidents to discuss the exchange of prisoners, and negotiations on these issues should be held there. He indicated that Moscow is ready to discuss this topic with Washington.

However, the head of the State Department condemned the use of “individuals as political pawns.” According to Blinken, Greiner’s arrest and sentencing demonstrates that Moscow is “using arbitrary detentions to further its own interests.”

Judgment by Brittney Griner

The day before, the Khimki City Court of the Moscow Region sentenced Brittney Griner to nine years in a penal colony and a fine of one million rubles, having found her guilty of smuggling and possession of narcotic drugs. Lawyers for the basketball player said they would appeal.

US President Joe Biden sharply criticized the decision of the Russian court. “Today, US citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence, which is another reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully holding Brittney. This is unacceptable, and I call on Russia to immediately release her so that she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends and teammates,” he said.

Greiner arrested in February 2022 in Sheremetyevo. The investigation claims that during the search, vape cartridges with hash oil were found in her luggage. The athlete admitted this, but stated that she was not going to bring the prohibited substance into Russia intentionally. She says that she packed things in a state of stress and did not remember that she put the cartridges in her bag. Greiner also emphasized that she uses drugs exclusively for personal use.

The US administration offers the Russian Federation to exchange Greiner and another American held in Russia – former Marine Paul Whelan convicted of espionage – for Russian citizen Viktor Bout, who is serving a term in the United States for arms trafficking. In early August, Washington announced unacceptable response to this proposal from Moscowwhich wanted to include in the exchange deal Vadim Krasikov, the murderer of the former Chechen field commander Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, who is also serving a sentence in Germany.

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