Moscow says it is ready to negotiate the fate of American detainees in Russia, but has accused the US of “media madness” after President Joe Biden met in person with the families of two American detainees last week.
Biden held separate meetings with the relatives of professional basketball player Brittney Griner and ex-Marine Paul Whelan at the White House on Friday, the first time he personally called them together since the two were detained.
“Instead of fulfilling its direct official duties — liaising with the host country’s diplomats — the US embassy in Moscow is engaged in a sort of media frenzy,” said Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry. a statement on Telegram on Monday. , pointing to videos and “funny photos” posted by the US embassy in Moscow, as well as Biden’s meeting.
“Family members were unable to get a clear explanation from the President of the United States about Russia’s demands for a prisoner swap,” she said, adding that she learned the details of the meeting through a DailyExpertNews report detailing Cherelle. Griner, Brittney’s wife, was quoted as saying.
She added that she should turn to Whelan and Griner’s relatives.
“We have stated many times that we are ready for negotiations to settle the fate of convicted US citizens in Russia and Russian citizens convicted in the United States.”
“If the US embassy in Moscow has a minute of free time, they will tell President Biden about it, and he will in turn tell the relatives of Whelan and Griner,” Zakharova said.
After Griner’s sentencing in August, the US and Russia indicated they were willing to talk about a prisoner swap.
Griner was arrested in February, accused of carrying cannabis oil vape cartridges in her luggage. The two-time US Olympic basketball gold medalist pleaded guilty to drug possession, saying she accidentally packed the drugs while in a hurry. She has been sentenced to nine years along with a fine of approximately $16,400. Her legal team in Russia has appealed the verdict.
Whelan has been detained in Russia for more than three years after he was convicted on spying charges he denies. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison in June 2020 in a trial labeled as unfair by US officials.
During the meetings, Biden reiterated “his continued commitment to work by all available avenues to bring Brittney and Paul home safely,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement on Friday. “The president appreciated the opportunity to learn more about Brittney and Paul from those who love them most, and recognized that every minute they’re being held is a minute too long.”