Kremlin seeks to hush Brittney Griner talks with US

Griner faces a 10-year sentence after security at a Moscow airport found cannabis oil in her luggage before a flight back to the United States in February.

US basketball player Brittney Griner, who was detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, is escorted before a court hearing in Khimki outside Moscow, Russia July 27, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool)
US basketball player Brittney Griner, who was detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, is escorted before a court hearing in Khimki outside Moscow, Russia July 27, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool)

Negotiations between the United States and Russia involving a swap of prisoners, including detained WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner, must proceed in private and without fanfare, the Kremlin urged Thursday.

"We know that such issues are discussed without any such release of information," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a scheduled conference call. "Normally, the public learns about it when the agreements are already implemented."

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the administration was working on a deal with Russia that would bring home Griner and another jailed American, Paul Whelan. Multiple reports indicate the deal would involve releasing convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in return for Russia releasing Whelan and Griner, whose trial for drug possession is ongoing.

Griner's fate

Griner faces a 10-year sentence after security at a Moscow airport found cannabis oil in her luggage before a flight back to the United States in February. Griner plays in a professional league in Russia during the WNBA offseason.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova issued a statement confirming talks have occurred but declined to elaborate.

 A policeman removes the handcuffs from WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner in a courtroom prior to a hearing, in Khimki, outside Moscow, Russia, July 27, 2022.  (credit: ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/POOL VIA REUTERS) A policeman removes the handcuffs from WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner in a courtroom prior to a hearing, in Khimki, outside Moscow, Russia, July 27, 2022. (credit: ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/POOL VIA REUTERS)

"We proceed from the assumption that interests of both parties should be taken into account during the negotiations," Zakharova said.