Russia is reportedly ready to discuss an exchange of incarcerated individuals with the Biden administration.
“On the matter of persons who are convicted in Russia and in the United States … there is a specified channel that has been agreed upon by [Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden], and no matter what anyone says publicly, this channel will remain in effect,” Russian Prime Minister Sergey Lavrov reportedly said during a news conference on Friday.
“We are ready to discuss this topic, but within the framework of the channel that has been agreed by the presidents.”
Lavrov’s comments come one day after WNBA star Brittney Griner was convicted of possessing less than one gram of cannabis oil and sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison. During a previous court hearing, Griner said that she had no intention of bringing cannabis oil into the country and had packed the item due to stress.
“I never meant to hurt anybody, I never meant to put in jeopardy the Russian population, I never meant to break any laws here,” Griner said.
“I made an honest mistake and I hope that in your ruling that it doesn’t end my life here. I know everybody keeps talking about political pawn and politics, but I hope that, that is far from this courtroom.”
Griner’s arrest and subsequent conviction occurred shortly before the nation invaded Ukraine. Russia’s decision to invade the European country has drawn criticism and backlash from several countries, including the U.S. As Griner’s legal battle has unfolded, the Russian government has been accused of keeping Griner for political gain.
In exchange for Griner’s release, several reports have indicated that the U.S. will have to transport notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout overseas. Russia is also reportedly expected to release former marine Paul Whelan if the proposal is agreed upon.