Bill Richardson hopes US and Russia continue prisoner exchanges despite strained relations

Astana, Jun 9 (EFE).- Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who has previously mediated several prisoner exchanges, expressed his confidence on Friday in the Kazakh capital that the United States and Russia would continue to execute prisoner swaps despite their “very unhealthy” relationship.

“I think it’s important that humanitarian missions like prisoner exchanges happen, even though the relationship with the US and Russia is very unhealthy and not good,” Richardson told EFE on the sidelines of the International Forum in Astana.

Richardson recalled his involvement in the exchange of basketball player Brittney Griner and American student Trevor Reed late last year.

However, he asserted that he is currently “not involved” in the negotiations about the exchange of Paul Whelan, a former marine sentenced to 16 years in prison for espionage, and Wall Street Journal reporter, Evan Gershkovich, arrested last April, also on alleged espionage charges.

The former US ambassador to the UN and former Secretary of Energy under Bill Clinton’s presidency said he hoped that the US and Russian governments could continue negotiating humanitarian missions without the involvement of third parties.

“I hope it’s something between the two governments, not non-governmental organizations,” he emphasized.

Last week, Moscow confirmed that diplomatic channels with the US remain open regarding prisoner exchanges.

“There are some contacts, but they are not regular. Through special channels, occasionally,” commented Yuri Ushakov, the Kremlin’s advisor for International Affairs.

He explained that these contacts, which also include visa issues, are handled by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the US State Department, as well as both countries’ embassies in Moscow and Washington.

Moscow and Washington executed one of the most questionable exchanges of recent years on December 8, when they swapped American basketball player Brittney Griner, convicted for cannabis possession, for Russian arms dealer known as the “Merchant of Death,” Viktor Bout, who was serving a 25-year sentence in a US prison.

In turn, in April 2022, the two countries exchanged American student Trevor Reed, sentenced to nine years in prison for resisting authority, for Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, sentenced in the US to 20 years for drug trafficking. EFE



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