Russia is in talks with the United States on a prisoner swap involving Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine that Moscow jailed for spying, Reuters reported Tuesday, citing his Russian lawyer.
Whelan’s attorneys previously suggested that prisoner exchange talks had stalled over the 2020 U.S. elections and the Trump administration’s reluctance to release a Russian citizen amid claims of interference in the vote.
Russian security services say that Washington “specifically under [U.S. President Joe] Biden” has initiated talks to exchange Whelan, Reuters quoted Whelan’s lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov as saying.
Zherebenkov named high-profile arms dealer Viktor Bout and convicted pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, as well as unnamed entrepreneurs and “computer programmers,” as potential Russian candidates for the swap.
The Kremlin said Tuesday it does “not yet have information” on the possible prisoner swap.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov later denied that prisoner exchange talks involving Whelan specifically were underway, noting that Moscow is ready to discuss other convicted persons with Washington.
A Russian court convicted Whelan, 57, of espionage and sentenced him to 16 years in prison last June. Whelan, who also holds, Canadian, British and Irish passports, has denied the charges and Washington has condemned his imprisonment.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry last month called reports of a possible prisoner swap a “pressure” campaign to secure “unilateral concessions” from Moscow.