Russia Comments on United States’ Prisoner Swap Offer for Brittney Griner

by Bryan Fyalkowski

The United States made a trade offer to get Brittney Griner back, but the Russians pulled the Lee Corso on us: “Not so fast, my friend!”

After more than five months of Griner in captivity, the U.S. is reportedly willing to send Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for her and Paul Whelan. Griner has been imprisoned since February 17, while Whelan has been behind bars in Russia since 2018.

But at this point in time, Russia has not agreed to the deal. According to Reuters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday: “So far there are no agreements in this area.”

Foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova confirmed that talks have occurred, but nothing further at the moment.

“The issue of the mutual exchange of Russian and American citizens in detention on the territory of the two countries was at one time discussed by the presidents of Russia and the United States,” she said. “They gave instructions to the relevant authorized structures to carry out negotiations. These are being conducted by the competent departments. A concrete result has not yet been achieved.”

Griner’s lawyer in Russia, Maria Blagovolina, mentioned that her trial would have to come to a close before any exchange is made.

Brittney Griner Takes the Stand, Calls Out Russian Officials

A significant moment in Brittney Griner’s trial occurred on Wednesday, when she took the stand for the first time. She alluded to the law being twisted during and after her arrest on February 17 at Sheremetyevo International Airport. The 31-year-old currently faces up to 10 years in prison under the charge of “large-scale transportation of drugs.”

“I remember one time there was a stack of papers that [the translator] needed to translate for me. He took a brief look and then said the exact words were, ‘Basically you are guilty,’” Griner testified, via The Washington Post.

Griner also claimed that she was not read her rights when she was originally arrested. Griner said through a translator that while she was told where to go, officials failed to explain what was happening.

She continued with her testimony, saying she did not receive access to a lawyer upon her arrest. In addition, Russian officers forced Griner to sign documents without telling her what they meant.