Former US diplomat Bill Richardson said on Sunday “optimisticabout negotiations to free American women’s basketball star Brittney Griner, who is being held in Russia, in a potential prisoner swap at “two against two“. Considered one of the best basketball players in the world, Brittney Griner, 31, was sentenced last week to 9 years in prison by a Russian court in a controversial case of “drug trafficking“, provoking a wave of indignation in the United States, especially in the world of sport.
«I’m optimistic. I think she’s going to be released, she has the right strategy of contrition“said Mr. Richardson, who specializes in delicate missions to obtain the release of his compatriots, during an interview on the ABC channel. “There will be an exchange of prisoners but I think it will be rather two against two, in particular with Paul Whelan“, a former American soldier who is serving a 16-year prison sentence in Russia for “spying“, he said.
These heavy sentences pave the way for a possible exchange of prisoners between Moscow and Washington, although diplomatic relations between the two countries have been extremely strained since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. On Friday, the head of Russian diplomacy Sergey Lavrov assured that Russia was “readyto discuss an exchange and the head of the American diplomacy Antony Blinken declared that the United States wouldContinueto discuss it with Moscow. Washington had already announced last week that it had made an offer “consequent» et «seriousto Russia to get Mrs. Griner and Paul Whelan back.
An exchange with an arms dealer?
According to several American media, it would be a question of exchanging a famous Russian arms trafficker detained in the United States, Viktor Bout. But Bill Richardson’s statement raises questions about the identity of a potential second Russian prisoner. A former ambassador, minister and governor, Mr. Richardson has since converted to delicate missions to obtain the release of Americans detained by “hostile regimes“. The hulking, black-haired politician, sometimes dubbed the Indiana Jones of American diplomacy, had notably participated in talks about former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed, a prisoner in Russia, who was released in April in exchange for Russian citizen Konstantin Yaroshenko.