Kremlin has no comment on report of US envoy visit to discuss prisoner swap

MOSCOW: The Kremlin on Wednesday had no comment on reports that a former US ambassador to the United Nations, Bill Richardson, had traveled to Moscow to discuss a potential exchange of imprisoned Americans and Russians
“There were no meetings at the Kremlin,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call. “I have nothing to tell you on this subject.”
CNN reported that Richardson, a former state governor of New Mexico, had held meetings with Russian officials in Moscow.
His Richardson Center specializes in negotiating the release of prisoners and hostages, and the ex-diplomat has been involved in the release of several high-level prisoners, including that of American Danny Fenster from a Myanmar prison last year.
The Richardson Center said it could not comment.
Russia’s foreign ministry said last month it was engaged in “quiet diplomacy” with the United States about a potential prisoner swap that could include basketball star Brittney Griner and former US Marine Paul Whelan.
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medallist and Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) star, was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison on drug charges on Aug. 4, a verdict that US President Joe Biden called “unacceptable.”
Washington has offered to exchange Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout for Griner and Whelan, sources familiar with the situation have told Reuters.
Whelan, who holds American, British, Canadian and Irish passports, was sentenced in 2020 to 16 years in jail after being convicted of spying. He denied the charge.
Griner, who had been prescribed medical cannabis in the United States to relieve pain from chronic injuries, was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport in February with vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage.
Cannabis is illegal in Russia for both medicinal and recreational purposes.


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