MOSCOW: Russia said on Friday that its ties with the United States were still in “crisis” despite a prisoner swap involving US basketball star Brittney Griner and Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

Tensions between Moscow and Washington have soared in recent months over a range of issues, peaking after President Vladimir Putin sent troops into pro-Western Ukraine.

“It is probably wrong to draw any hypothetical conclusions that this could be a step towards overcoming the crisis that we currently have in bilateral relations,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Izvestia newspaper.

Ties “continue to remain in a sad state,” he said, adding that talks with US authorities allowed “a Russian citizen, who was basically held captive by the Americans for 14 years... to return to his country”.

Prisoner swaps

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Friday that Russia and the United States would continue to talk about possible prisoner swaps directly, without intermediaries, the RIA Novosti news agency reported. Ryabkov also said, according to the Interfax news agency, that Russia would “communicate with all partners who show interest in this”, including Bill Richardson, former governor of the US state of New Mexico.

Richardson had travelled to Moscow in a private capacity in an effort to win the release of American basketball player Brittney Griner.

US President Joe Biden said on Thursday that Washington remained committed to securing the return of imprisoned former marine Paul Whelan — whose release Richardson had also lobbied for in Moscow.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2022

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