US dismisses Russia update on Brittney Griner negotiations

A potentially promising Russian statement on negotiations to bring Brittney Griner home was quickly dismissed by the US State Department on Friday.

Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, was quoted by Russian media earlier in the day as saying there was new “activity” in the talks that could see convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is currently serving 25 years in a US prison, return to Russia.

“We haven’t found common ground yet, but Viktor Bout is certainly among those being discussed and we obviously hope for a positive result,” Ryabkov said. “The Americans are showing some activity and we are working on this through the appropriate channels.”

But a State Department spokesman responded that Russia has not yet seriously engaged in negotiations, no matter what Ryabkov said.

“We are not going to comment on the details of any proposal other than to say that we have made a substantial offer that the Russian Federation has consistently failed to negotiate in good faith,” the statement said. “The US government has continued to follow up on that offer and propose possible alternative ways of moving forward with the Russian government. The fact that the Russian government has not seriously negotiated on these issues on the established channel, or any other channel, in fact, goes against their public statements.”

US officials had said they expected their Russian counterparts to enter into good faith negotiations after the Nov. 8 midterm elections, but Friday’s statement made it clear that no such change has occurred, at least in the eyes of the US government.

Sources close to Griner said Friday that her family remained “optimistic” and confident that the Biden administration was doing everything possible to bring her home. But they’re also trying not to overreact to the ups and downs of a process they know could take months or years.

The official remarks on Friday came after Griner’s recent transfer to a Russian penal colony, a move confirmed by his lawyers but not yet officially recognized by the Russian government. Griner’s lawyers met with her in person Monday, but US embassy officials have yet to visit her at the IK-2 women’s prison, about two hours from Moscow.

“While we are pleased that her legal team was able to visit her, the fact is that the Russian Federation has not yet provided any official notification of such a move,” a State Department spokesperson said in a statement. “We continue to call on Russia to meet its legal obligations to provide the United States with timely consular access to Ms. Griner so that we can provide critical consular assistance during her detention. That’s hard to do when we haven’t been notified where she is. “.

One of Griner’s lawyers, Maria Blagovolina, recently said that Russian officials normally notify families and lawyers of a prisoner’s location by mail, which can take about two weeks under normal circumstances.

Griner has yet to contact his family, a source said, and most likely won’t be able to until he has passed a standard “quarantine” period at his new location.

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US dismisses Russia update on Brittney Griner negotiations