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US to continue to work on return of Whelan and Griner — official

A representative of the American administration said that he had no information about any progress on this issue.

WASHINGTON, October 2. /TASS/. The US will continue to work on the return of its citizens convicted in Russia, Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, a senior US administration official said on Saturday during a telephone briefing for journalists.

"We will keep working until we bring Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner and other Americans held hostage or wrongly detained abroad home," he said. A representative of the American administration also revealed that he had no information about any progress on this issue.

Earlier, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that Moscow was ready to hold a dialogue with Washington on the convicted Greiner and Whelan, however, the US diplomatic mission did not provide adequate communication with the diplomats of the receiving country to supply the US leadership with substantive information on the issue. The diplomat also pointed to a CNN report quoting Cheryl Greiner, Brittney’s wife, that relatives of the US nationals convicted in Russia had failed to get a coherent explanation from Biden about Russia's demands for a prisoner swap. On September 16, the president received Griner and Whelan's relatives at the White House. After the meeting, the US authorities said that they intended to use "all available means" to bring their compatriots convicted in Russia back home.

Earlier, Washington offered Moscow to swap Russian businessman Viktor Bout, who is serving a prison term in the US for arms trafficking, for basketball player Brittney Griner, sentenced to jail for drugs trafficking, and Paul Whelan, convicted in Russia of spying. The prisoner swap was one of the topics discussed in a telephone conversation between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in late July. Lavrov urged his American counterpart to return to ‘quiet diplomacy’ on the issue. Later, the US media, citing unnamed sources, reported that Russia had proposed adding another Russian citizen imprisoned in Western countries to the swap deal.