A top Russian diplomat on Thursday lashed out at the Biden administration for trying to create hype around the case of arrested American basketball star Brittney Griner, hours before her trial was expected to resume in a court near Moscow.
The diplomat, Sergei A. Ryabkov, the deputy foreign minister, said the publicity surrounding Ms. Griner’s case – US officials say she is essentially a hostage taken by President Vladimir V. Putin in Ukraine during the war. taken – has not served its interests.
Mr Ryabkov indicated that Moscow would be willing to negotiate her fate, but only after the court ruled on the drug charges filed against her. She has been detained in Russia since February 17, accused by Russian authorities of having a vape cartridge containing hash oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow.
“We have an established way of discussing these matters,” Mr Ryabkov told reporters in Moscow on Thursday, according to Interfax news agency. “The attempts by the American side to fuel hype and make noise in the public environment are understandable, but they do not help to solve problems practically.”
If convicted, Ms. Griner faces up to 10 years in prison in a Russian penal colony.
After her trial began last week, she sent a handwritten letter to Biden asking him not to “forget” her and other American prisoners abroad.
Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke to Mrs. Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, on Wednesday, according to a White House statement.
During the phone call, the statement said, the president read out a draft of a letter he planned to send to Brittney Griner. He also said his government is “pursuing every opportunity to bring Brittney home”.
Cherelle Griner has publicly expressed her frustration with Mr Biden and his administration’s efforts to secure her wife’s release.
In a statement to DailyExpertNews on Wednesday, Cherelle Griner said she was grateful to Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris “for the time they spent with me and for the dedication they made to get BG home.”
The United States government has classified Brittney Griner as “wrongly detained” and is working toward her release regardless of the outcome of the trial. While the Kremlin claims not to be involved in Ms. Griner’s case, reports in Russian state media have indicated that Moscow could pressure the United States to release a Russian in US custody — such as convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout – in exchange for her freedom.
What you need to know about Brittney Griner’s detention in Russia
Mr Ryabkov said there are “no formal procedural grounds” to discuss further steps until the conclusion of Ms Griner’s case. He hinted, however, that Moscow was interested in negotiating her fate, claiming she would be helped by “a serious reading by the American side of the signals they have received from Russia, from Moscow, through specialized channels.”
He did not specify what those signals were, but insisted that conversations about Ms Griner’s fate would take place out of the public eye, according to Russian news reports.
“Hype and publicity, despite all the love for this genre among modern politicians, only stands in the way in this particular case,” said Mr Ryabkov, according to the RIA Novosti news agency. “This not only distracts from the matter, but creates interference in the truest sense of the word. That is why silence is necessary here.”
At a hearing this month, the prosecutor claimed that Ms. Griner was “sufficiently aware” that the transportation of narcotics into Russia was prohibited, TASS, a Russian news agency reported. In response, Ms. Griner said she understood the allegations but would respond to them later, TASS said.