The Russian diplomat Alexander Darchiev, director of the Department for North America of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has admitted for the first time contacts with the United States to exchange Viktor Bout, convicted in the United States for arms trafficking, for the basketball player Brittney Griner, convicted in Russia for drug possession and trafficking, before showing some optimism about the development of the negotiations. In an interview with the Russian agency Tass, the outlet explicitly asks Darchiev about the situation of Bout and Griner, as well as former US Marine Paul Whelan , also sentenced in Russia, although on charges of espionage. “We are taking into account all these people that you are naming,” Darchiev responds to the question. “Russia has been pursuing the release of Viktor Bout for a long time, but we must leave the details to the professionals, who act on the principle of ‘do no harm,'” he explains. For weeks, Russia has remained silent on the details of these possible exchanges and has instead criticized the United States for what it described as a “megaphone policy” when commenting publicly on the state of the negotiations, at a time when relations between the two countries are at record lows due to the war in Ukraine .Russia has been pursuing the release of Viktor Bout for a long time, but we must leave the details to the professionalsDarchiev nevertheless recalled that “the talks concern a very sensitive issue through the channels chosen by our respective presidents” in what which he once again described as “a quiet diplomacy that is still going on and will bear fruit if, of course, Washington refrains from falling in propaganda.” Other anonymous Russian sources consulted by Bloomberg mention additional names in future exchanges such as former Russian agent Vadim Krasikov, convicted in Germany for murder in 2021 or Vladislav Klyushin, an individual close to the Kremlin extradited from Switzerland to the United States for charges of insider trading. The latter is of great importance to Russia as it has information about the computer assault on Democratic Party servers during the 2016 presidential election, again according to sources close to the Kremlin.
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