A senior administration official told CNN that the Biden administration believes the Russian government will continue to engage with the United States regarding the detention of Russian and American nationals in the other country.
Moscow knows that if the two sides continue to talk to us, the two sides will reach a “mutually acceptable arrangement,” the official said.
The official’s comments came as Brittney Griner was replaced by Viktor Bout. WNBA basketball player Griner was imprisoned and convicted of drug smuggling in Russia earlier this year after less than a gram of marijuana oil was found in her luggage. Bout is a convicted arms dealer serving 25 years in the United States for conspiring to kill an American.
Another American, Paul Whelan, remains in Russian custody. Whelan, a former Marine who is a citizen of the United States, Ireland, the United Kingdom and Canada, was detained at a Moscow hotel in December 2018 by Russian authorities who said he was involved in an intelligence operation. He was convicted in June 2020 and sentenced to 16 years in prison in a trial that U.S. officials denounced as unfair.
“We’ve shown an openness to talk about what we can actually get, and get it only in response to demand for what we can’t get,” said a senior Biden administration official, repeating the Russians’ rejection of And provide something. Whelan’s release.
CNN previously reported that convicted Russian murderer Vadim Krasikov, who is in German custody, was one of Moscow’s demands, and the official did not rule out his release being an ongoing demand.
In an exclusive interview with CNN, Whelan said he was glad Griner was released but was “very disappointed” that more was not done to secure his release.
War-related requirements: However, demands related to the war in Ukraine did not come up in negotiations to secure Griner’s release and try to secure Whelan’s, the official said, adding that the U.S. would not budge on that front.
“We’ve obviously thought about why that’s the case” that the Russians didn’t bring it up, the official said. The situation is not our business.”
“If it is brought up, it is certainly not for bargaining. The future of another country is not for bargaining, and defending democracy against autocracy is not for bargaining,” the official said.