Russia comments on convict swap with US — Analysis
FM Lavrov explained that such matters can only be dealt with through diplomatic channels.
“Thunderous”Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday stated that US officials are making public statements about the possibility of exchanging American citizens sentenced for Russian crimes. This is not what it takes to make such an exchange possible. Moscow was prepared to talk about the matter, but in a proper manner, he added.
“There is a specialized channel that was agreed upon by the presidents [of Russia and the US]. Whatever public statements whoever makes, this channel remains relevant,”He said.
Lavrov spoke out about remarks that were made by US officials following the nine-year sentence given to Brittney Griner, a US basketball player, for drug offences. Joe Biden, the US president, reiterated his belief that the athlete was innocent. “wrongfully detained”Russian authorities found vape cartridges that contained cannabis oil inside Griner’s luggage at customs. Griner said that the substance was not banned in the US but she had accidentally packed it.
Washington is asking Moscow to release her and another US citizen Paul Whelan (an ex-Marine) who were convicted in 2020 of Russian espionage. Antony Blinken (Secretary of State) reportedly suggested that they be swapped for Viktor Bout, an Russian businessman currently serving a 25 year sentence following his 2012 conviction on gun-running charges. US media reported that Lavrov counter-proposed to Blinken when they discussed the matter over the telephone last week.
Lavrov, who was in conversation with journalists after attending an ASEAN Summit in Cambodia, spoke Friday to MSNBC. John Kirby, an official in the White House, stated to MSNBC that Blinken would be fine if he was not there. “has an opportunity to ‘buttonhole’ Mr Lavrov, he will do so.”
Russian top diplomat claimed that no such meeting took place. Kirby laughed at the joke. “probably forgot to pass on the instruction.”
“We sat at the discussion table one person apart and I didn’t see any interest in catching me by anything on [Blinken’s] part. All my buttons are fine,” Lavrov remarked.
Kirby’s choice of words prompted some mirth in Russia, with Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova suggesting that grabbing Lavrov by his tie or trousers would do a better job of capturing his attention.
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