Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken said Wednesday that the United States “has put a substantive proposal on the table for weeks” in talks with Russia to release detained basketball star Britney Grenier and a former Marine. Paul Whelan.
Mr Blinken said the US and Russia had “communicated repeatedly and directly about this proposal”, refusing to discuss the details of the talks. He said he expected to speak soon with the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, about the matter.
While Mr. Blinken never said the phrase “prisoner exchange”, many experts said such a deal might be the only way for Ms. Grenier to gain her freedom.
Mr Blinken’s comments came on the same day Mr Greiner, who is being held in Russia on drug charges, told a court outside Moscow that she had been thrown into a bewildering legal system with little explanation for what was happening and what she might do. to try to defend itself.
the master. Whelan He was sentenced last year for espionage.
Ms Greiner described arriving in Russia after an exhausting 13-hour flight – and shortly after recovering from Covid – and finding herself in an interrogation in which much of what was said remained untranslated. She said she was also asked to sign papers without explaining what they were.
This was her first court testimony about her arrest in a case that gained great prominence due to the war in Ukraine. The conflict caused the deepest rift between the United States and Russia since the end of the Cold War.
When Mrs. Greiner arrived at the hearing in a long-sleeved shirt, she was wearing it His wrists were cuffed in front of her eyesShe was surrounded by a group of Russian security agents, including some in flak jackets, their faces covered with masks.
Russian authorities detained Ms Greiner, 31, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who played for the Phoenix Mercury, about a week before President Vladimir Putin’s forces invaded Ukraine in February. She was accused of putting two pieces of cannabis oil in her bag when she arrived at an airport near Moscow. Russia didn’t Make her arrest public Even after the invasion began.
Ms. Greiner was traveling to Russia to play for a team in Yekaterinburg, 900 miles east of Moscow, during the off-season WNBA. She was accused of intentionally smuggling vape cartridges, in violation of Russian drug laws.
Earlier this month, Mrs. Greiner Admission of guilt, saying that she made a mistake and inadvertently carried a prohibited substance to Russia because it had been hastily packed. In the Russian legal system, a guilty plea does not end the trial; Lawyers for Ms Greiner, who faces a possible 10-year prison sentence, expect it to last until August.
Ms Greiner’s lawyers said they hope her guilty plea will make the court more lenient, but experts say her best hope is for the Biden administration to find a way to trade her for a high-ranking Russian in US custody. .
In her testimony from a closed witness box on Wednesday, Ms Greiner said she was planning to fly onward to Yekaterinburg but was pulled aside during baggage checks at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, according to one of her lawyers, Alexander Boikov, of the Moscow Law Centre. .
Ms Greiner testified that she was asked to sign documents while in detention without explaining what they meant. Mr Boikov said the translator provided to Ms. Greiner after her arrest did not translate “almost nothing” and that she was held for 16 hours before a lawyer came to her aid.
Maria Blagovolina, a partner at the law firm of Rybalkin, Gortsunyan, Dyakin and Partners who also represents Ms Greiner, said in a statement after the hearing that her client “made it clear to the court that she knows and respects Russian laws and never intended to break them.”
“Britney has confirmed that she has a prescription for medical cannabis, and in the United States medical cannabis is a popular treatment among professional athletes,” Ms Blagovolina said. “She asserted that she had never planned to bring it to Russia and use it.”
Ms Greiner also told the court that Yekaterinburg “has become her second home, and she has always enjoyed her time in Russia,” Ms Blagovolina said.
Before the testimony was given, Mrs. Greiner’s legal team asked the judge to allow the basketball player to testify outside the witness box that was closed due to her height. Judge Anna Sotnikova denied the request but allowed Ms Greiner to testify while seated, according to Russian news agency TASS.