October 18, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news
The Biden administration has had communications with Russia as part of ongoing efforts to secure the release of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan “as recently as within past days” a senior administration official said, speaking to CNN on Griner’s birthday, which she will be spending in Russian jail.
The United States first put an offer for a prisoner swap on the table with Russia back in June — the details of which CNN exclusively reported — and “conversations have not been static since then” the official said.
Despite the “pretty persistent” pace of discussions between the US and Russia to secure the Americans’ release, the official said the Biden administration has yet to receive a serious counteroffer from the Russian side.
“We have worked hard to try to demonstrate the sorts of things that could well be the basis for resolving this and each time we have articulated that it’s been met not with a serious counteroffer,” the official said.
They said the Russians have countered with “something not in our control, not in our ability to deliver,” but did not go into further specifics.
“They’re not non-responsive. I would say that they continue to respond with something that they know not to be feasible or available,” the official said of the Russian response.
The official said the US has used multiple channels for discussions with the Russians and conversations have taken place both in-person, by phone, and “through other forms.” The US has dangled multiple ideas for “things that could be in play” to urge a serious response from the Russians.
With Griner spending her 32nd birthday in Russian prison the official said that “every day is too long” for her to remain wrongfully detained by Russia.
“I wish you weren’t spending this birthday in Russian detention. I wish you weren’t spending the past weeks and months there,” the official said, speaking to Griner. “As far as we’re concerned, each day is too long and we will keep working this until we resolve it and get her home. Regrettably, the other side gets a vote in this. They’re the ones who created this horrible situation. They’re the ones we regrettably need to deal with to resolve it.”
Next week, Griner will appeal her nine-year prison sentence in Russian court. It is unclear if the passage of that court date will bolster ongoing efforts to get her home.
“To the extent that those different phases of that decidedly imperfect system pass and open the possibility on the other side of real negotiations, we would welcome that. But the most candid answer is, we don’t know,” the official said.
President Joe Biden said last week that he would consider meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 in November if he wanted to discuss Griner. When asked if there has been discussion between the US and Russia about that possible meeting on Griner the official said they would let Biden’s remarks “speak for themselves.”