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Russia Rips US For Making Griner Prisoner Swap Public Ahead Of Midterms

Russia said it is conducting “quiet diplomacy” with the U.S. over the release of detained basketball star Brittney Griner after details of the negotiations emerged publicly in July, which Russia sees as a political ploy, according to Reuters.

Senior Biden administration officials allegedly disclosed the terms of a proposal to swap notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for Griner and another American, Paul Whelan, whom Russia imprisoned on spying charges in 2020, to CNN. Russia immediately denied reaching a deal with the U.S. and accused the U.S. Thursday of publicizing the negotiations to fulfill political aims ahead of midterm elections, Reuters reported.

“Quiet diplomacy is underway and it should bear fruit if Washington follows it, and not fall into propaganda through media hype to score points before an election,” Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Ivan Nechayev said, according to Reuters.

Midterm elections for congressional seats have a strong chance of flipping the House for the Republicans, and President Joe Biden’s Democratic party faces dismal prospects overall.

Russia previously said the U.S.’ “megaphone diplomacy” would sabotage the negotiations, Reuters reported.

The White House and State Department confirmed on July 28 it had pursued a “substantial proposal” to secure Griner’s release over several weeks.

“We are in communication with the Russians on this matter, and we encourage them to pursue this, to do so constructively,” spokesperson Ned Price said Monday, referring to the aforementioned proposal. He declined to provide further details on behind-the-scenes negotiations or Russia’s insistence on so-called “quiet diplomacy.”

Viktor Bout, known as the “Merchant of Death,” was convicted of conspiring to sell weapons to communist guerrillas in Colombia in 2011 and is serving 25 years in federal prison. President Joe Biden reportedly supported Russia’s interest in trading the arms dealer for Griner and Whelan, both of whom the State Department considers to be wrongly detained.

“So far there are no agreements in this area,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Reuters in July, after reports of the trade surfaced.

Authorities detained Griner in a Moscow airport on Feb. 17 after discovering cannabis in her luggage. Griner claimed she was prescribed medical cannabis for pain relief and inadvertently packed it before flying to Russia, where marijuana is illegal.

Griner pleaded guilty to charges on July 7.

The Russian foreign ministry and the State Department did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment.

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