Russia To America: Keep It Cool And We'll Talk Prisoner Exchange, If Not Brittney Griner Stays In The Penal Colony

The Kremlin said Friday that it is now open to talking about a possible prisoner exchange involving Brittney Griner, although Russian diplomats are warning - scolding might be a better word - that Washington had better keep a lid on...or else.

Following Griner's conviction and draconian sentencing to 9 years in a Russian penal colony for having entered the country this past February with a minuscule amount of cannabis oil in her luggage, the already politically charged case has heated up quite a few degrees. 

Back to the secret meetings of John LeCarré's Cold War spy novels.

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken communicated last week with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov about the prisoner swap though he overshared quite a few details with the press, prompting a nasty scolding from his Russian counterpart.

Lavrov called Blinken’s efforts to exchange Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan for convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout “microphone diplomacy.” Ouch.

Blinken Is Now Keeping It Cool

After Lavrov's public chiding, it seems the two men and their teams - attending an East Asia Summit in Cambodia - just might be ready to get back to the table. 

The Associated Press reported that Blinken did not even glance at his Russian counterpart as they took their seats at the ASEAN Summit nor did he attempt to contact Lavrov. Awkward.

“We were separated by just one person at the discussion table, but I didn’t feel his desire to catch me. My buttons are all in place,” Blinken said when asked about a Washington statement that he’d try to grab Lavrov for a quick chat in Phnom Penh.

The new approach seems to be working. Lavrov said Moscow was “ready to discuss” a prisoner swap though he reiterated that the topic should only be discussed privately and via a dedicated Russia-U.S. channel that Presidents Biden and Putin agreed to establish when they met in Geneva in June 2021.

“If the Americans again try to engage in public diplomacy and make loud statements about their intention to take certain steps, it’s their business, I would even say their problem,” Lavrov said. 

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov piled on. “The U.S. already has made mistakes, trying to solve such problems via ‘microphone diplomacy.’ They are not solved that way,” Peskov said then added a dire warning. 

“If we discuss any nuances related to the issue of exchange via media, no exchange will ever take place.” 

Photos: Wikimedia Commons

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