Kremlin says it’s ready to discuss prisoner swap with US

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Kremlin says it’s ready to discuss prisoner swap with US

A Kremlin official said Moscow was ready to discuss a prisoner swap with Washington, people familiar with the matter say could see former Marine Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner traded for a Russian arms dealer imprisoned in the U.S.

The Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was in a news conference in Cambodia a day after a Russian court sentenced Ms. Griner to nine years in prison after her guilty plea and conviction on charges she brought a marijuana product into the country. Ms. Griner is wrongly detained, according to the U.S.

On Friday, Mr. Lavrov said in Phnom Penh, that we are ready to discuss this topic, but within the framework of a channel agreed upon by Presidents Putin and Biden. Mr. Lavrov didn't give any more details of the framework. Mr. Biden had raised the issue of Americans imprisoned in Russia with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a high-profile summit in Geneva last year.

Ms. Griner's sentence was close to the maximum 10 year penalty for the charges of drug possession and smuggling she faced. A fine of 1 million rubles, about $16,300, is also included in the sentence. The judge said she will be transferred to a penal colony with the 5 months she spent in detention before her trial is included in her term.

Russian prosecutors said Ms. Griner, a Phoenix Mercury star who has played with UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason, had vape cartridges containing 0.702 grams of hashish oil in her luggage when she arrived in Russia in February - a week before the invasion of Ukraine. Ms. Griner admitted to carrying the drugs but said she packed them by mistake and never intended to violate Russian law. She presented an Arizona doctor's prescription to use marijuana to treat pain.

Ms. Griner's lawyer, Alexander Boykov, said it would take up to three months for an appeal to be considered. Mr. Boykov acknowledged that there was little chance of an appeal being granted, but he said it was worth it.

Washington has pressed Moscow to accept what it regards as a substantial proposal for Ms. Griner's release and that of Mr. Whelan, who was handed a 16-year sentence for espionage in 2020 and whom the U.S. considers wrongfully detained.

People familiar with the matter say that the proposal would free the couple in exchange for the release of a Russian arms dealer held in the U.S. Viktor Bout, who has five years remaining on a sentence he received in 2012. Russia has demanded the trade include Vadim Krasikov, a Russian serving a murder sentence in Germany for the killing of a Chechen militant in Berlin, a U.S. official said.