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Russia insists it is ready to negotiate Whelan and Griner prisoner swap

Russia insisted today that it is ready to negotiate with the US the exchange of ex-marine Paul Whelan and basketball player Brittney Griner, who are serving sentences in this country, after Washington affirmed on Friday that it has not yet received a response to its proposal to release to the two Americans.

"We have stated many times that we are ready for negotiations to resolve the fate of American citizens convicted in Russia and of Russians in the United States," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zajarova said on her Telegram channel.

“If the US embassy in Moscow has a minute of free time, they will tell President Joe Biden, and he, in turn, will tell the relatives of Whelan and Griner,” he added.

Zakharova argued that the American legation, "instead of fulfilling its direct official duties, which is to maintain contacts with the diplomats of the host country, is engaged in a kind of media madness and broadcasts on an industrial scale videos about Russian leadership and politicians, and funny pictures.

The foreign spokeswoman made these statements after Biden received Cherelle Griner, Brittney's wife, and Elizabeth Whelan, Paul's sister, on Friday in two separate meetings at the presidential residence.

Hours earlier, the Executive had explained that it is still waiting for Russia to respond to its proposal to release the two Americans.

According to Zajarova, Griner later explained on CNN that they were unable to get a clear explanation from Biden about Russia's demands for a prisoner exchange.

Griner, a WNBA star who played for the Russian team UMMC in Yekaterinburg, has been detained in Russia since last February for drug possession and smuggling. The world and Olympic champion with her country was sentenced to nine years in prison on August 4 by a Russian court for having introduced cannabis oil into Russian territory, although she declared that she did not do it with malicious intent.

For his part, Whelan, a former Marine arrested in Moscow in December 2018, is sentenced to 16 years in prison for espionage. The United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has proposed to his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, the exchange of Griner and Whelan for Victor Bout, an arms dealer nicknamed the merchant of death, who is serving a 25-year sentence. jail in an American prison. (Eph)

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