For the first time, Russian officials confirmed that they are negotiating with the United States over a prisoner swap.
According to the Washington Post citing Russian news outlet Tass, Russian Foreign Ministry Deputy Spokesman Ivan Nechayev said this Thursday at a news briefing that “corresponding competent authorities have been instructed to negotiate the issue” and “are in talks” on the matter.
As we previously reported, the United States has proposed a prisoner exchange to release WNBA star Brittney Griner and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan.
This latest update comes a week after Griner was found guilty of drug charges in a Russian court and sentenced to nine years in prison. As for Whelan, he was arrested back in 2018 on spying charges.
He was handed down 16 years in prison in 2016. Despite that, he and his family maintain that the charges against him were manufactured, per the outlet.
Related:BREAKING: WNBA Star Brittney Griner, Found Guilty On drug Charges In Russia, Faces Up To 9 1/2 Years In Prison
Aside from their harsh sentences, the Biden administration has said that the two Americans are both wrongfully detained and claimed that they will take every possible step to ensure their make a return back home.
“It is important for Brittney to come home,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said last week. “It is important for Paul Whelan to come home. The president is going to work every day very hard with his national security team to make that happen.”
“We have made a substantial offer to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home,” she added. “They need to be home. They should be home. They are being wrongfully detained.”
More On Brittney Griner
Brittney Griner’s defence said that they will file an appeal on behalf of the U.S. basketball star who was jailed for 9 years by a Russian court on drugs charges.
WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver issued the following statement regarding Brittney Griner:
“Today’s verdict and sentencing is unjustified and unfortunate, but not unexpected and Brittney Griner remains wrongly detained. The WNBA and NBA’s commitment to her safe return has not wavered and it is our hope that we are near the end of this process of finally bringing BG home to the United States.”