After Brittney Griner conviction, Russia is able to focus on prisoner swap with US, Lavrov says

Russia’s overseas minister Sergey Lavrov advised reporters in Cambodia that the Kremlin is “prepared to debate this subject, however inside the framework of the channel that has been agreed by the presidents,” state information company RIA Novosti reported.

“There’s a specified channel that has been agreed upon by [Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden], and it doesn’t matter what anybody says publicly, this channel will stay in impact,” Lavrov reportedly stated Friday on the Affiliation of Southeast Asian Nations summit.

Shortly later, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated on the similar summit that the US will “pursue” talks with Russia.

“We put ahead, as you recognize, a considerable proposal that Russia ought to have interaction with us on. And what International Minister Lavrov stated this morning and stated publicly is that they’re ready to interact via channels we have established to just do that. And we’ll be pursuing that,” Blinken advised reporters at a press briefing.

The feedback from all sides recommend {that a} negotiation course of, which has already confirmed advanced, might speed up within the coming days.

Russian authorities officers requested final month {that a} former colonel from the nation’s home spy company, who was convicted of homicide in Germany final yr, be included within the US’ proposed swap of infamous arms supplier Viktor Bout for Griner and Paul Whelan, a number of sources accustomed to the discussions advised CNN.
Whelan, a US citizen, has been held by Russia since 2018 and was convicted by a Russian court docket in 2020 on espionage prices that he has strenuously denied. Griner’s conviction has raised related considerations that she is getting used as a political pawn in Russia’s struggle in opposition to Ukraine. The US State Division classifies the pair as wrongfully detained.

Griner, a Girls’s Nationwide Basketball Affiliation star, pleaded responsible to carrying hashish oil in her baggage as she traveled via a Moscow airport on February 17. She testified in court docket that she was conscious of Russia’s strict drug legal guidelines and had no intention of bringing hashish into the nation, saying she was in a rush and “stress packing.”

Previous to the decision on Thursday, Griner apologized to the court docket and requested for leniency in an emotional speech. “I by no means meant to harm anyone, I by no means meant to place in jeopardy the Russian inhabitants, I by no means meant to interrupt any legal guidelines right here,” she stated.

“I made an sincere mistake and I hope that in your ruling that it does not finish my life right here. I do know everyone retains speaking about political pawn and politics, however I hope that, that’s removed from this courtroom,” she continued.

Griner’s legal professionals had hoped that her responsible plea and statements of regret would end in a extra lenient sentence.

Her conviction, Blinken advised reporters, “places a highlight on [Washington’s] very vital concern with Russia’s authorized system and the Russian authorities’s use of wrongful detentions to advance its personal agenda utilizing people as political pawn.”

“The identical goes for Paul Whelan,” Blinken added.

Earlier Friday, a US State Division official advised reporters there had been no “severe response” from Russia on a proposed swap. The identical official stated Blinken and Lavrov had not met whereas on the Cambodia summit, and that Blinken had no plans to take action.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov advised reporters Russia wouldn’t focus on the prospect of a switch publicly. “If we focus on via the press some exchange-related nuances, then these exchanges won’t ever happen. The Individuals have already made this error,” he stated Friday.

Peskov, requested whether or not Putin might pardon Griner, stated that “there’s a sure [legal] process that the convicted can resort to, in accordance with the legislation.” In accordance with the Russian legislation, to begin the clemency process, a convict wants to write down a petition to the Russian president.

Earlier than the beginning of Thursday’s WNBA recreation between Griner’s Phoenix Mercury and the Connecticut Solar, members of each groups linked arms round middle court docket, and a 42-second second of silence was held for Brittney Griner.

Close to the tip of these 42 seconds, members of the gang began chanting, “Carry her dwelling! Carry her dwelling!”

This story has been up to date with extra developments.

CNN’s Martin Goillandeau, Anna Chernova and Daniel Allman contributed to this report.