There are no immediate signs of a speedy Brittney Griner deal in either Moscow or Washington.


How soon might Brittney Griner return to the United States in a prisoner swap with Russia? Perhaps not very, if comments from officials in Washington and Moscow on Thursday are any indication.

A day after Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken revealed that the United States had “put a substantial proposal on the table” for the American basketball star’s release, there was little sign of movement.

The offer, according to a person briefed on the negotiations, involves exchanging a Russian arms dealer serving a lengthy term in an American prison for Ms. Griner, who has been detained since February on a drug charge, and Paul N. Whelan, a former Marine detained in Russia in 2019 and accused of espionage. The State Department has classified both Americans as “wrongfully detained” and referred their cases to a special hostage affairs office.

Mr. Blinken did not confirm the specifics of the proposal, but he did say the two countries had “communicated repeatedly and directly” about it. Speaking at the State Department on Wednesday, Mr. Blinken also said he expected to speak in the coming days with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov, to urge him to accept the offer.

But the men have not spoken — their last known discussion was before Russia invaded Ukraine in February — and on Thursday, the State Department spokesman, Ned Price, appeared to express some frustration with the Russian response.

“The fact that, now several weeks later, we are where we are, I think you can read into that as being a reflection of the fact that this has not moved to the extent we would like,” he said.

Russia’s foreign ministry said on Thursday that Moscow had not received a request from Washington for a conversation between Mr. Lavrov and Mr. Blinken, according to Interfax, a Russian news agency. But the ministry said in a separate statement that possible exchange of Russian and American citizens currently being held had been a topic of discussion between Washington and Moscow.

Maria Zakharova, the foreign ministry’s spokeswoman, said that while negotiations were ongoing, “no concrete result has been achieved.”

The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, rebuffed reporters’ questions about negotiations about any prisoner exchange. “We know that such issues are discussed without any such release of information,” Mr. Peskov said. “Normally, the public learns about it when the agreements are already implemented.”

It was impossible to know the extent to which the public statements were posturing or tactics.

But on Thursday, Ms. Zakharova was anything but encouraging in addressing Mr. Blinken’s desire for talks with Mr. Lavrov, who is currently traveling abroad, visiting leaders in Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda and the Republic of Congo to press Russia’s narrative that it is Western powers, not Russia, that is impeding desperately needed grain shipments.

“Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will address this request when time permits,” she told Russia’s Interfax news agency. “He currently has a busy schedule of real work in terms of international contacts.”


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