Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Tuesday that there is "always a chance" for an exchange of prisoners with the United States, and he did not rule out the possibility of a prisoner swap before the end of the year, according to state media RIA Novosti.
“There is always a chance. Unfortunately, there were several situations before when it seemed that a decision in favor of this was about to take place. This did not happen. But I'm just talking about previous experiences — we, as a department, do not conduct such dialogue, so we do not fully feel the dynamics," Ryabkov said, as quoted by RIA.
“I would like to note that if this happened, it would undoubtedly, send a positive signal that not everything is hopeless in Russian-American relations," he added, according to RIA.
Ryabkov said an agreement on the exchange of prisoners with the United States "would show that quiet diplomacy is bearing fruit." He added that recent methods of "megaphone diplomacy" from the United States "did not help the case."
Some background: In July, CNN reported that the Biden administration offered to exchange a convicted arms trafficker Viktor Bout as part of a potential deal to secure the release of two Americans held by Russia, basketball star Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan. But Russian officials have requested that Vadim Krasikov, a former colonel from the country’s domestic spy agency, be included in the US’ proposed swap of Bout for Griner and Whelan, multiple sources familiar with the discussions have previously told CNN.
Earlier this month, Ryabkov said that Russia hoped for a “positive outcome” on the issue of exchanging Bout, according to state media TASS.The possibility of a prisoner swap is not only possible but is getting stronger, he said, adding that “and the time will come when the prospect will become a concrete agreement,” according to TASS.
However, the US State Department has cautioned against optimism based on Ryabkov’s comments, noting that Russia still has yet to engage in good faith. “Ultimately here, actions speak louder than words,” said State Department principal deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel.