Ukrainian forces have liberated the town of Luhansk region, a military official said

President Joe Biden met with Cherelle Griner, wife of Brittney Griner, at the White House on September 16. (White House)

Moscow says it is ready to negotiate the fate of American prisoners in Russia, but accused the US of engaging in a “media pilgrimage” after President Joe Biden met with the families of two American detainees last week.

Biden held meetings Friday with the relatives of professional basketball player Brittney Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan at the White House, the first time he had met in person since the two were arrested.

“Instead of fulfilling its correct official duties (maintaining relations with diplomats of the host country), the US embassy in Moscow is engaging in some kind of media frenzy,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement on Telegram on Monday. , pointing to videos and “funny photos” posted by the US embassy in Moscow, as well as the Biden meeting.

“The relatives were unable to get a clear explanation from the US president about Russia’s demands for a prisoner exchange,” he said, adding that details of the meeting came to light through a CNN report by Cherelle Griner, Brittney’s wife.

He added that he would have to reach out to Whelan and Griner’s relatives.

“We have stated many times that we are ready for negotiations to resolve the fate of US citizens convicted in Russia and Russian citizens convicted in the United States.”

“If the US embassy in Moscow has a minute to spare, it will inform President Biden, who will tell the relatives of Whelan and Griner,” said Zakharova.

After Griner’s verdict in August, the US and Russia indicated they were open to talks about a prisoner exchange.

Griner was arrested in February on charges of carrying vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in his luggage. The two-time US Olympic basketball gold medalist pleaded guilty to drug charges and said she accidentally packed the drugs in a hurry. He has been sentenced to nine years, along with a fine of around 16,400 dollars. His legal team in Russia has appealed the sentence.

Whelan has been imprisoned in Russia for more than three years after being convicted of espionage, which he denies. In June 2020, he was sentenced to 16 years in prison in a trial that US officials said was unfair.

During the meetings, Biden “reiterated his commitment to working on every avenue available to bring Britney and Paul home safely,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday. “The president appreciated this opportunity to learn more about Brittney and Paul from those they love most, and acknowledged that every minute they’re holding back is a minute too long.”