Kremlin says Griner swap must be discussed behind closed doors

by Ezekiel J. Walker
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The Kremlin announced on Friday that it’s open to talking about a possible prisoner exchange involving American basketball star Brittney Griner but strongly warned Washington against publicizing the matter, according to ABC News.

Griner, a two-time U.S. Olympic champion and an eight-time all-star with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, has been detained in Russia since Feb. 17 after police at Moscow’s airport state a vape cartridge containing cannabis oil was found in her luggage.

On Thursday, the court sentenced her to nine years in prison, only one year shy of the 10-year maximum. She also faces a fine of $1 million rubles, roughly $16,300.

For months, the U.S. State Department has labeled Griner “wrongfully detained.” Thursday’s guilty verdict now paves the way for a potential prisoner swap, as Russian authorities have previously said no negotiations would take place until the end of Griner’s trial.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke last week with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, urging him to accept a deal under which Griner and Paul Whelan, an American jailed in Russia on espionage charges, would both go free.

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