US-Russia intelligence services in touch on possible prisoner swap: Lavrov

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Thursday that discussions with Washington about potential prisoner exchanges were being conducted by the two countries’ intelligence services, and that he hoped they would be successful.

Elizabeth Rood, the US chargé d’affaires in Moscow, told Russia’s state-owned RIA news agency in comments published on Monday that talks were continuing through the “designated channel” about a deal to free jailed Americans Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.

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But she said Moscow has not provided a “serious response” to any of Washington’s proposals.

Basketball star Griner was last month taken to a penal colony in the Russian region of Mordovia to serve a nine-year drug sentence after being arrested in February with vape cartridges containing cannabis oil.

She said at her trial she used them to relieve the pain from sports injuries and had not meant to break the law.

Whelan, a former US Marine, is serving 16 years in the same region on charges of espionage, which he denies.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Nov. 18 he was hopeful of agreeing a prisoner swap that could see the release of Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian weapons trafficker who is in prison in the United States.

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