Russia is too busy “creating turmoil” and seeking revenge to negotiate a prisoner exchange, Brittney Griner’s final chance

Russia is too busy “creating turmoil” and seeking revenge to negotiate a prisoner exchange, Brittney Griner’s final chance

On Tuesday, a panel of judges refused the WNBA superstar’s long-awaited appeal, despite widespread opinion that her nine-year sentence was disproportionate to her crime (flying into Russia with vape cartridges containing less than one gram of cannabis oil).

Jonathan Franks, an expert in hostage negotiation, told Insider that the denial was “anticipated” since “there is a thumb on the scale” in Russian courts. Nonetheless, the ruling all but assured that Griner will serve her sentence in one of Russia’s infamous penal colonies, unless the White House and Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin can negotiate an agreement.

Griner arrives via video call at her Russian appeal hearing.
REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina

In denying Griner’s appeal, Russia “turned the volume up to 11,” according to Esquire Digital’s chief legal analyst Aron Solomon. Even if Russia said last week that Griner’s release was not a top priority, maximizing the return on their investment in holding her as a political prisoner is a top priority.

Putin and his friends have “all the leverage,” according to Solomon, because they are aware that President Joe Biden “truly wants to close a deal before the midterms.” Bringing Griner and fellow wrongly jailed American Paul Whelan home would be a tremendous public relations success for him and the Democratic Party, and Putin does not want to give him easy victories.

Solomon stated, “I believe we have a decent opportunity in the next week and a half, but only if Russia is eager to make the deal.”


Kirill Kudryavtsev/Pool via REUTERS

Franks, a spokeswoman for the Bring Our Families Home Campaign who helped negotiate for the release of American Marine veteran Trevor Reed from Russia, is unconvinced that Putin is currently eager to talk. He believes that the Russians are unwilling to give up “Putin’s once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create turmoil in our country.”

Franks stated, “This is trolling of the highest level, and it is trolling that has been operationalized by a state actor.” “Every time Cherelle appears on television, a mini-earthquake occurs, and everyone covers it because she is such a strong advocate for her wife. And then, at the briefing, people ask the White House questions about it, and they struggle to respond.

“I’m sure that [the Russians] find it rather amusing to see mayhem unfold and to believe that they can instigate it at any time by taking Brittney to court or deteriorating her prison conditions,” he continued.


Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool/Reuters

Franks also remarked that Russia’s delay may be motivated by retaliation. Russia would approach the White House with a request for a prisoner exchange, and the United States government would frequently reject the offer.

Now, some years after Moscow initially attempted to negotiate the release of infamous Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, the Biden administration has reportedly proposed include him in a trade for Griner and Whelan. Franks believes Putin may be delaying the process to “get revenge at the United States for not reaching this deal years ago.”

Franks stated, “That may be a factor – we delayed them for so long and said it was impossible to execute one of these, and now we want to do it.” “The Russians are now taking their time. It does feel like game playing.”

Russian arms smuggler Viktor Bout is escorted to the criminal court in Bangkok, Thailand, by armed Thai police commandos.

AP Image by Apichart Weerawong and File

Nevertheless, Putin has plenty motivation to play ball with Biden at some time. As a result of Russia’s earlier efforts to gain Bout’s release, Franks hypothesizes that “eventually they’ll return to the table.”

It’ll just happen on Putin’s timeframe.

Franks stated, “He might point at her and declare that she is returning home tomorrow.” “But the reality is that they want their system to appear genuine at any cost. It would be too obvious if they abruptly traded someone before they were even condemned. They recognize that appearance.

“Instead, they wait until they are either sentenced or their case is totally resolved, meaning that all appeals have been exhausted or waived,” he explained. Then, they may be more receptive to conversation.

Griner displays a photograph of WNBA All-Star Game participants wearing her name and number in 2022.

Dmitry Serebryakov/AP Photo

President Joe Biden stated on Tuesday that he and White House personnel had been in “continuous touch with Russian officials” in an effort to get the eight-time WNBA All-Star back to the United States. U.S. government officials assert that they have yet to receive a substantial counteroffer from Moscow.

Biden stated, “We have not received a lot of favorable feedback.” But we will not cease.

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