Moscow says it is ready to negotiate the fate of American prisoners in Russia, but accused the United States of engaging in “media madness” after President Joe Biden personally met with the families of two American detainees last week.
Biden held separate meetings with relatives of professional basketball player Brittney Griner and ex-Marine Paul Whelan at the White House on Friday, marking the first time he has personally called them since their detention.
“Instead of carrying out its direct official functions – maintaining contact with diplomats of the host country – the American Embassy in Moscow is indulging in a kind of media madness,” the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Monday. Maria Zakharova, in a statement on Telegram. , pointing to videos and “funny pictures” posted by the US Embassy in Moscow, as well as Biden’s meeting.
“Relatives could not get a clear explanation from the President of the United States about Russia’s demands for a prisoner exchange,” she said, adding that she learned the details of the meeting from through a CNN report quoting Cherelle Griner, Brittney’s wife.
She added that she should turn to those close to Whelan and Griner herself.
“We have repeatedly stated that we are ready for negotiations to resolve the fate of American citizens convicted in Russia and Russian citizens convicted in the United States.”
“If the U.S. Embassy in Moscow has a minute of free time, they will tell President Biden about it, and he, in turn, will tell those close to Whelan and Griner,” Zakharova said.
Following Griner’s sentencing in August, the United States and Russia indicated they were ready to hold talks on a prisoner exchange.
Griner was arrested in February, accused of carrying vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage. The two-time U.S. Olympic basketball gold medalist pleaded guilty to drug charges and said she accidentally packaged the drugs while in a hurry. She was sentenced to nine years, as well as a fine of approximately $16,400. His legal team in Russia appealed the conviction.
Whelan has been imprisoned in Russia for more than three years after being convicted of espionage which he denies. He was sentenced in June 2020 to 16 years in prison in a trial that US officials have denounced as unfair.
During the meetings, Biden reiterated “his continued commitment to work through all available means to bring Brittney and Paul home safely,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday in a statement. a statement. “The President appreciated the opportunity to learn more about Brittney and Paul from those who love them most, and recognized that every minute they are detained is a minute too long.”