Moscow has said it is ready to negotiate the fate of American prisoners in Russia, but has accused the US of engaging in “media madness” after President Joe Biden personally met with the families of two inmates. Americans last week.
Biden hold private meetings with relatives professional basketball player Brittney Griner and former sailor Paul Whelan at the White House on Friday, marking the first time he has personally summoned them since the two were detained.
“Instead of fulfilling its direct official duties – maintaining contact with the diplomats of the host country – the US Embassy in Moscow is attending,” said Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. engaged in some sort of crazy media.” , pointing to videos and “funny pictures” posted by the US embassy in Moscow, as well as the Biden meeting.
“The relatives were unable to get a clear explanation from the US President about the Russian request for a prisoner exchange,” she said, adding that she learned about the details of the meeting through a CNN report. quoted Cherelle Griner, Brittney’s wife.
She added that she would have to go see Whelan and Griner’s relatives herself.
“We have stated several times that we are open to negotiations to resolve the fate of US citizens convicted in Russia and Russian citizens convicted in the United States.”
“If the US Embassy in Moscow had a minute to spare, they would tell President Biden about it, and in turn, would tell the relatives of Whelan and Griner,” Zakharova said.
After Griner’s sentencing in August, the US and Russia said they had ready to talk through a prisoner swap.
Griner was arrested in February, accused of carrying vape canisters containing cannabis oil in his luggage. The two-time US basketball Olympic gold medalist pleaded guilty to drugs and said she accidentally packed drugs in a hurry. She was sentenced to nine years, along with a fine of about $16,400. Her legal team in Russia appealed the verdict.
Whelan has been detained in Russia for more than three years after being convicted of espionage charges, which he denies. In June 2020, he was sentenced to 16 years in prison in a trial that US officials accused of being unfair.
During the meetings, Biden reiterated his “commitment to continue working through all available avenues to get Brittney and Paul home safely,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. Dad on Friday. “The President appreciates the opportunity to learn more about Brittney and Paul from those who love them most, and acknowledges that every minute they are in custody is a minute too long.”