US Dismisses Russia’s Latest Claim in Brittney Griner Talks, Social Media Sounds Off

by Nick Geddes
(Photo by Natalia KOLESNIKOVA / AFP) (Photo by NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP via Getty Images)

Russia released a potentially encouraging statement Friday about negotiations to facilitate the return of WNBA star Brittney Griner back to the U.S.

Sergei Ryabkov, the Russian deputy foreign minister, said there was “activity” in talks to organize a prisoner swap between Griner and Viktor Bout. Bout, known as the “Merchant of Death,” is a convicted Russian arms dealer currently serving 25 years in U.S. prison. Russia handed Griner a nine-year prison sentence on drug smuggling charges.

“We haven’t found common ground yet, but, undoubtedly, Viktor Bout is among those being discussed and obviously we are hoping for a positive result,” Ryabkov said, via ESPN. “The Americans are showing certain activity and we are working on this through appropriate channels.”

The U.S., however, dismissed the latest update from Ryabkov. In a statement provided to ESPN, a U.S. state department spokesperson slammed Russia for not negotiating in good faith.

“We are not going to comment on the specifics of any proposals other than to say that we have made a substantial offer that the Russian Federation has consistently failed to negotiate in good faith,” the statement said. “The U.S. Government has continued to follow up on that offer and propose alternative potential ways forward with the Russian government. The Russian government’s failure to seriously negotiate on these issues in the established channel, or any other channel for that matter runs counter to its public statements.”

Americans Want Brittney Griner Released From Russian Prison

Some weren’t buying Russia’s statement either. “I’m of a generation that has no trust in anything coming out of the Kremlin,” one Twitter user wrote.

275 days have passed since Griner was detained Russia. Needless to say, many Americans are ready for her to return.

“It has been 274 days since our friend, Brittney Griner, has been wrongfully detained in Russia,” fellow WNBA star Breanna Stewart tweeted Friday. “It is time for her to come home. @WhiteHouse@potus@vp , we are paying attention and we are counting on you. #WeAreBG.”

Brittney Griner Moved to Russian Penal Colony

The statements come as Russia recently moved Griner to a penal colony 200 miles outside of Moscow. The move has been confirmed by her attorneys, though the Russian government has yet to officially acknowledge it. Griner’s attorneys met with her in Prison Monday. U.S. embassy officials, meanwhile, haven’t been able to visit her at the IK-2 women’s prison.

“While we are glad her legal team was able to visit her, the fact is that the Russian Federation has still failed to provide any official notification of such a move,” a State Department spokesperson said in a statement. “We continue to call on Russia to live up to their legal obligations to provide the United States timely consular access to Ms. Griner so we can provide critical consular assistance throughout her detention. That’s difficult to do when we haven’t been notified where she is.”