Brittney Griner

Earlier this week, it was reported that former New Mexico governor and diplomat Bill Richardson was in Moscow with his team meeting with Russian leadership over a potential prisoner swap to get WNBA star Brittney Griner released from prison. While that sounded like great news at first, the United States government is apparently not a fan of a “third party” being involved in negotiations.

Wednesday, a U.S. official made a stern statement that seemed to be directed at Richardson and anyone else who wanted to be part of the negotiations.

“Our message is that private citizens should not be in Moscow at all right now and that private citizens cannot negotiate on behalf of the United States government,” National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said on Wednesday.

While Richardson is indeed a private citizen, he also has extensive experience in these kinds of issues. He’s also the head of an organization that focuses on freeing Americans who are wrongfully detained abroad. Richardson’s plans to visit were initially reported in July and, at the time, Kirby said that U.S. officials were in “constant communication” with him, inferring a partnership of sorts. Richardson has also said that he is optimistic about a resolution soon.

However, according to ABC News, the State Department has closed ranked in recent weeks and been less receptive to outside help. Spokesperson Ned Price confirmed that on Wednesday, saying that outside groups and people could end up causing problems for the negotiations.

“Our concern is that anything other than negotiating further through the established channel is likely to hinder the efforts that we have undertaken to see the release of Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner,” he said.

It’s unclear what changed between now and July, but it’s clear that the U.S. government thinks they’re better off negotiating directly with Russia over Griner and Whelan, even if that outside help has done this before.

[ABC News]

About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to