US will ‘pursue’ latest Russia offer to discuss Griner prisoner exchange

US will 'pursue' latest Russia offer to discuss Griner prisoner exchange

US WNBA basketball player Brittney Griner, who was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, leaves the courtroom before the court’s final decision in Khimki outside Moscow, on August 4, 2022. — AFP pic

Friday, 05 Aug 2022 4:27 PM MYT

PHNOM PENH, Aug 5 — The United States will “pursue” Russia’s latest offer to discuss at the presidential level a prisoner swap involving detained basketball star Brittney Griner, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said today.

“[Russian] Foreign Minister Lavrov said this morning… that they are prepared to engage” on a swap for the detained American, Blinken said at a foreign ministers’ meeting in Cambodia. “And we’ll be pursuing that.”

Moscow’s latest offer came a day after the Phoenix Mercury player was sentenced by a Russian court to nine years in a penal colony on a drug smuggling charge.

The arrest and sentencing highlighted Moscow’s “use of wrongful detentions to advance its own agenda,” Blinken added, slamming the use of “individuals as political pawns”.

The verdict and sentence were widely condemned in the United States as unjustified and sparked urgent calls for the US government to bring Griner home.

Griner’s trial accelerated in recent days as the United States and Russia discussed a potential prisoner swap that could involve the basketball star.

The White House urged Russia later on Thursday to accept its offer of a deal for the release of Griner and former US Marine Paul Whelan, who was imprisoned on espionage charges. — AFP