US blasts Russia over prisoner swap talks
The White House has accused Russia of not negotiating in good faith a potential prisoner swap between the two countries, claiming that Moscow’s actions are at odds with the statements it makes on the record.
Speaking at a regular press briefing on Friday, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre commented on Washington’s efforts to secure the release of US citizens in Russian custody. According to the spokeswoman, the US has reached out to Russia with an offer and proposed “alternative potential ways forward” through available diplomatic channels.
However, Jean-Pierre claimed that “the Russian government’s actions have contradicted what they have said publicly.” “Over the last several months, they have failed to seriously negotiate through the established channel or any other channel,” she said.
While declining to provide any details on negotiations, she said Washington had made a “substantial offer” but that Moscow has “consistently… failed to negotiate in good faith.” “They need to negotiate in good faith,” the spokeswoman stressed.
Earlier on Friday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said that Moscow is having behind-the-scenes discussions with Washington about a potential prisoner swap involving jailed Russian businessman Viktor Bout, who was sentenced to 25 years in jail in 2012 over gun-running charges. Bout maintains he is innocent.
However, Ryabkov indicated that while “the Americans are showing certain activity,” Moscow and Washington “haven’t found common ground yet.”
Last month, CNN reported that the administration of US President Joe Biden had been trying to secure the release of WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner and former US Marine Paul Whelan, who had been convicted in Russia on drug-smuggling and espionage charges, respectively. The US insists that both are “wrongfully detained.”
In late April, Moscow and Washington completed a prisoner swap involving Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, who had spent 12 years in a US jail over drug-smuggling charges and former US Marine Trevor Reed, who was sentenced to nine years in prison after being found guilty of assaulting a police officer in Moscow.