Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: Former U.S. ambassador “cautiously optimistic” about prisoners exchange negotiations

Former ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he is “cautiously optimistic” about the negotiations to secure the release of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan from Russia. “I think it’s going to be a two for two,” said Richardson, who added that he has met with senior Russian officials; “individuals close to President Vladimir Putin.” Richardson, the former New Mexico governor and diplomat, reportedly visited Russia last month, while the U.S. government cautioned that “private citizens should not be in Russia at all right now.” When asked about the prospect of a Richardson trip to Russia, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told CNN: “Our message is that private citizens should not be in Russia at all right now and that private citizens cannot negotiate on behalf of the United States government.” “We share Mr. Richardson’s desire to see Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan home with their families … and we’re working very, very hard to do that, through government channels. That’s the appropriate way to do that,” Kirby said. Richardson in response to Kirby’s remarks said: “I’m not part of the government, the government channel, I’ve always made that clear, I respect that.” “I’m not going to interfere in their process,” Richardson said of the Biden administration’s efforts to secure the release of Whelan and Griner. (https://www.axios.com/2022/10/09/brittney-griner-paul-whelan-russia-release-bill-richardson) Richardson has been involved in negotiating the release of several Americans detained abroad through the Richardson Center for Global Engagement.

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