Russia Warns Against 'Megaphone Diplomacy' in Griner Case

Officials say prisoner swap must be discussed privately
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 5, 2022 7:32 AM CDT
Russia Warns Against 'Megaphone Diplomacy' in Griner Case
Players with the Connecticut Sun and Phoenix Mercury link arms for 42 seconds in honor of Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner before a WNBA basketball game Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, in Uncasville, Conn.   (Sarah Gordon/The Day via AP)

The first rule of prisoner exchanges is apparently not to talk about prisoner exchanges, according to statements from Russian officials after the sentencing of Brittney Griner. Officials say they're ready to talk about a prisoner exchange for the American basketball star in private, but it's not going to happen if the US side discusses it in the media, reports Reuters. "The Americans have already made that mistake, suddenly deciding to use megaphone diplomacy to resolve these issues," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. "This is not how they are resolved."

Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison on Thursday—close to the maximum—for having vape cartridges with cannabis oil in her luggage. Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, also warned against "public diplomacy" Friday, saying that a diplomatic channel exists for President Biden and Vladimir Putin to discuss prisoner exchanges. Biden called the sentence "unacceptable" Thursday and urged Russia to release Griner immediately. The administration has reportedly offered to swap Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for Griner and Paul Whelan, another detained American.

Griner's lawyers say she is devastated and "honestly quite shocked" by the harsh sentence. Griner plays for the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA. Before the team's 64-77 loss to the Connecticut Sun Thursday, players from both teams met at midcourt and bowed their heads for 42 seconds in a tribute to Griner, whose jersey number is 42, the AP reports. "Nobody wanted to even play today," said Phoenix guard Skylar Diggins-Smith. "How are you supposed to approach the game and court with a clear mind? The whole group is crying before the game. You try to honor her and still play hard for her. Regardless of whether she’s here or not." (More Brittney Griner stories.)

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