President Biden believes Russian leader Vladimir Putin could be more interested in negotiating Brittney Griner’s release following Tuesday’s midterm elections.
“My hope is that now that the election is over, that Mr. Putin will be able to discuss with us and be willing to talk more seriously about a prisoner exchange,” Biden said at a Wednesday press conference.
The president did not explain why he expected American electoral results to influence the Kremlin.
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and eight-time WNBA all-star, was arrested in Russia in February, days before Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine. Months later, she was convicted of carrying vape cartridges with cannabis oil in her luggage.
Last week, Griner was transferred to a Russian penal colony after her appeals were denied. The U.S. embassy and Griner’s lawyers still don’t know exactly where Griner is or where she’s going.
In July, the U.S. offered to exchange convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for Griner and another detained American, ex-Marine Paul Whelan. Russia apparently declined the deal.
“In the subsequent weeks, despite a lack of good faith negotiation by the Russians, the U.S. government has continued to follow up on that offer and propose alternative potential ways forward with the Russians through all available channels,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday.