Tue, 26 Sep 2023

Phnom Penh [Cambodia], August 5 (ANI): Amid the controversy surrounding the sentencing of an American basketball player in Russia, the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday said Moscow is ready to discuss the exchange of prisoners with the US within the framework of the already existing channel approved by the leaderships of the two countries.

The minister said that there is a special channel, which is agreed upon by the Russian and US presidents, Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden, respectively, and this channel remains relevant, Russian news agency Sputnik reported.

"We are ready to discuss this topic, but within the framework of the channel that was agreed upon by the presidents Putin and Biden," Lavrov told reporters in Cambodia.

This statement comes after US President Joe Biden on Thursday called a Russian court's decision to sentence US women's basketball player Brittney Griner to nine years in prison on drug charges "unacceptable" and called for the immediate release of the athlete.

"It's is unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates," Biden said in a statement.

Griner was also fined 1 million rubles (USD 16,500) in addition to the nine-year sentence for transporting cannabis oil into Russia, for which she was found guilty of drug smuggling and possession.

The US government will pursue every possible avenue to return Griner, as well as fellow detainee Paul Whelan, back to the United States, Biden added.

Earlier, reports said the United States had offered Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer known as the "Merchant of Death" in exchange for the release of US citizensIn February, the Russian authorities detained Brittney Griner on drug charges after finding vape cartridges that contained hashish oil in her luggage while she was at an airport near Moscow.

In Russia, she was stopped at an airport near Moscow and since then, her detention has been repeatedly extended. Griner's trial began on July 1 and she pleaded guilty. Her lawyers have argued that the star had a medical prescription for the hashish oil and mistakenly carried the drug into Russia. (ANI)

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