“This quite sensitive issue of the swap of convicted Russian and US citizens is being discussed through the channels defined by our Presidents. These individuals are, indeed, being discussed. The Russian side has long been seeking the release of Viktor Bout. The details should be left to professionals, proceeding from the ‘do not harm’ principle,” Darchiev said in response to a request for comment on US news reports that US officials had sent a proposal to Moscow on swapping Bout for Griner and Whelan, TASS reported.
The US government “continues to urge Russia to release wrongful detainees Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan,” a US State Department spokesperson said Monday. “As Secretary (of State Antony) Blinken said, ‘There was a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago to facilitate their release.'”
“We will not go into detail of what we proposed to the Russians,” the spokesperson added.
The verdict appeal and potential prisoner swap conversations operate independently, said Griner attorney Alexander Boykov of Moscow Legal Center.
“It should not affect them. This is a part of legal process. Prisoner talks come through diplomatic channels. Since the appeal could be withdrawn any time before the actual hearing, there’s no reason for Russian government to wait,” he said.
CNN’s Kylie Atwood, Frederik Pleitgen, Evan Perez, Jennifer Hansler and Chandelis Duster contributed to this report.