U.S. tamps down Russia’s update on Brittney Griner

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A potentially promising Russian statement about negotiations to bring Brittney Griner home was met with quick dismissal from the U.S. Department of State on Friday.

Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted by Russian media early in the day saying there was new “activity” in talks that could see convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is currently serving 25 years in a U.S. prison, returned to Russia.

“We haven’t found common ground yet, but, undoubtedly, Viktor Bout is among those being discussed and obviously we are hoping for a positive result,” Ryabkov reportedly said. “The Americans are showing certain activity and we are working on this through appropriate channels.”

But a State Department spokesperson fired back that Russia still has not seriously engaged in negotiations, no matter what Ryabkov said.

“We are not going to comment on the specifics of any proposals other than to say that we have made a substantial offer that the Russian Federation has consistently failed to negotiate in good faith,” the statement said. “The U.S. Government has continued to follow up on that offer and propose alternative potential ways forward with the Russian government. The Russian government’s failure to seriously negotiate on these issues in the established channel, or any other channel for that matter runs counter to its public statements.”

U.S. officials had said they hoped their Russian counterparts would engage in good faith after the Nov. 8 midterm elections, but Friday’s statement made it clear that such a shift hasn’t happened, as least in the eyes of the U.S. government.

Sources close to Griner said Friday that her family remained “optimistic” and confident that the Biden administration was doing all it could to get her home. But they are also trying not to overreact to the ups and downs of a process that they know could go on for months or years.

Friday’s official statements came after Griner’s recent transfer to a Russian penal colony, a move confirmed…

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