Talks on prisoners including Whelan will continue because Russians have ‘things they want’, US official says


Washington
CNN

The Biden administration believes the Russian government will continue to engage in prisoner issues, including the release of American Paul Whelan, following the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner, because “they have things they want in this world,” a senior official told CNN.

Moscow knows the two sides will eventually reach “a mutually acceptable arrangement if they keep talking to us,” the official continued.

“We have shown an openness to talk about what is actually available to us, and we have only had a demand for something that is not available to us,” the official said, reiterating that the Russians rejected what was been offered to secure the release of Whelan.

On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said further prisoner swaps with the United States are possible. Putin said the exchange of Griner with convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout “is the result of negotiations and the search for compromises.”

“In this case, compromises were found. We do not refuse to continue this work in the future,” he said.

CNN previously reported that convicted Russian killer Vadim Krasikov, who is in German custody, was one of Moscow’s requests, and the official did not rule out that his release has been a continuing request.

Claims related to the war in Ukraine did not come up in negotiations to secure Griner’s release and attempts to secure Whelan’s, the official said, adding that the United States would not make concessions on that front.

“We’ve obviously thought about why that might be the case” that the Russians didn’t float it, the official said, “and I think we credit that to the fact that we’ve been so crystal clear, so consistent that It’s not up to us to negotiate how the dire situation will be resolved.”

The official added: “If it was lifted, of course it is not negotiable. The future of another country is not negotiable, and the defense of democracy against autocracy is not negotiable.”

Although US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that “every possible” offer was made to the Russians to secure Whelan’s release, the Biden administration has ideas for “new kinds of offers” they will try with the Russians in an effort to secure The release of Whelan, the senior civil servant.

Whelan told CNN on Thursday that “the president and his team are going to have to look at what they have that is valuable that these people want and hopefully give it to them, or I’m going to be here for a long time.”

However, Whelan’s brother David has cast doubt on the possibility of identifying something the Russians want.

“It is clear that the US government has no concessions that the Russian government will make for Paul Whelan. And so Paul will remain a prisoner until that changes,” David Whelan said in a statement Thursday.

Russia considers Whelan a spy, the official explained, meaning they treat him in a different category. The official did not count on the United States offering a Russian spy in American custody as a potential offer to Russia.

“There is a willingness to pay even a very large price on the part of this president,” the official said. “We have made it clear to the Russians that we are at least open to talking about what is at our disposal, what we could actually deliver. It would be someone in our care.”

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