Russia Responds To Blinken: “No Deal” Reached On Detained Americans
On Thursday the Kremlin responded to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s prior day announcement indicating Washington had offered the Russian government a “substantial proposal” toward obtaining the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan – both in Russian jail.
Blinken and subsequent reporting suggested that the deal may be moving along, but that the “ball is in Russia’s court” – as one CNN source put it; however, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that currently there “are no agreements yet which are finalized.”
Peskov’s wording though, does appear to confirm that the US and Russian sides have been engaged in quiet, back-channel negotiations. Very likely, a Blinken-Lavrov call would only come if the two sides move to finalize a prisoner swap after weeks of talks.
“Our governments have communicated repeatedly and directly on that proposal,” Blinken had said Wednesday, previewing that he expects to speak with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov “in the coming days” – which would mark the first time the two top diplomats have spoken since the Ukraine war’s beginning.
But again Moscow took the opportunity to downplay where things stand, with the Russian Foreign Ministry saying it’s yet to receive requests for a Blinken-Lavrov call as of Wednesday evening. “There have been no requests, only media reports,” a Russian FM spokesman said.
Blinken didn’t reveal any details of just what the US administration is proposing, but there has been widespread reporting that the White House is offering to exchange convicted Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout for Griner and Whelan’s release.
This possibility has set off skepticism and anger among some pundits and journalists…
A lot of asymmetries to this potential trade. https://t.co/5KxVAMUhI2
— Zach Dorfman (@zachsdorfman) July 27, 2022
ESPN just told me that shit like it’s the trade deadline pic.twitter.com/Lm8bDxKT82
— Jacob (@j_love2823) July 27, 2022
Griner and Whelan are not the only Americans languishing in Russian detention…
Crusher for family of Marc Fogel not to be included in US offer of a deal to free Brittney Griner & Paul Whelan. @McFaul, former US ambassador to Russia, “has come to conclusion ‘only viable option’ for Fogel is a prisoner swap” https://t.co/Zk3MQCouWV
— Manuel Roig-Franzia (@RoigFranzia) July 28, 2022
Reacting to Blinken’s Wednesday announcement, one commenter had this to say:
“It took nearly 10 years for US to apprehend Viktor Bout, and close to 3 more years to convict him for terrorism and arms trafficking. Allegedly, thousands of civilians in multiple African countries, were injured and killed by weapons supplied by Bout. Fair trade for Griner?”
Likely the Department of Justice has been vigorously arguing against releasing Viktor Bout, considering it took a significant extradition process (from Thailand) to even get him into US custody over a decade ago. He’s currently serving a 25-year sentence in federal prison after being convicted in the Southern District of New York for conspiring to kill Americans and conspiring to provide material support to terrorists.
Thu, 07/28/2022 – 17:30