It’s been reported for some time now that the United States and Russia are locked in “quiet diplomacy” to figure out a way to bring WNBA star Brittney Griner home, with the assumption being that a prisoner swap involving her and other U.S. and Russian citizens would be the answer.
President Joe Biden met with Cherelle Griner last week to provide some reassurance that efforts were ongoing. Afterward, Cherelle told reporters that the “negotiations have been very complex but that Biden is determined to get a deal done.” CNN’s Abby Phillips reported that Cherelle said “I don’t think they have quite figured out exactly what Russia wants in return for BG.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. has warned people not currently associated with the State Department not to get involved, saying that doing so could hinder further negotiations.
All the while, Russia has been pretty quiet about how the potential deal is going and what’s holding it up. Until Monday, when Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova released a statement on a potential prisoner swap: “We have stated many times that we are ready for negotiations to resolve the fate of U.S. citizens convicted in Russia and Russian citizens in the U.S.”
The Russian foreign ministry also said that the U.S. embassy in Moscow was “not fulfilling its official duties” over a dialogue regarding a prisoner swap.
Russia hits back at the US over stalled negotiations on a prisoner swap involving WNBA star Brittney Griner and another jailed American https://t.co/Atl63KKhGb
— Bloomberg Politics (@bpolitics) September 19, 2022
Of course, as many experts have pointed out, a lot of this is political theater by Russia, presumably to get more in return for someone they know is a high-value prisoner.
The potential swap has been said to also include U.S. Marine Corps veteran Paul Whelan and Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, though any details beyond that have been scant.
For now, Griner remains in a Russian prison, having been convicted on drug charges and sentenced to nine years.