While WNBA star Brittney Griner was found guilty in a Russian court for smuggling illegal drugs into the country and sentenced to nine years in prison, it has been thought for some time that she could return to the United States as part of a prisoner swap. It now appears that Russia has confirmed those discussions are underway.
According to the Washington Post, Russia confirmed for the first time on Thursday that negotiations between Washington and Moscow are underway. United States officials proposed a deal to swap Griner and another American prisoner, Paul Whelan, for Russian prisoners currently held in American prisons.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ivan Nechayev said Thursday that negotiations about an exchange began after Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed last week that Russia was willing to talk.
“Instructions were given to authorized structures to carry out negotiations,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ivan Nechayev said Thursday. “They are being conducted by competent authorities,” he told journalists, per state media.
The entire affair has long been considered a sham by experts and a prisoner swap was always the eventual destination, with Viktor Bout, an arms dealer who killed Americans, the most likely person that Russia wanted in return.
Griner was initially detained in Russia back in February for allegedly carrying vape cartridges containing hashish oil in a Moscow airport. The WNBA star admitted she had mistakenly brought the hashish oil into Russia, which she was taking for medical purposes.