Prisoner exchange – Russia asks the US to hand over the killer colonel

Russian government officials asked the United States to add to the list of persons to be exchanged for American citizens imprisoned in the Russian Federation an ex-FSB colonel convicted in Germany for the murder of former Chechen field commander Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, writes CNN citing own sources.

Earlier this month, the Russians relayed a request to the US through an unofficial channel used by the FSB that they wanted to release Vadim Krasikov in addition to Viktor Bout, who was convicted in the US on arms smuggling charges, sources said. In December, Krasikov was found guilty of killing former Chechen militant Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in Berlin’s Kleiner Tiergarten in 2019 and sentenced to life in prison.

The request was considered problematic for several reasons, sources told CNN, including the fact that Krasikov remains in German custody and that the request was transmitted through an FSB channel.

But as the Biden administration was determined to bring Britney Griner and Paul Willan back to the US, officials still approached Germany unofficially about getting Krasikov involved in the exchange, a senior German government source told CNN.

The US official described the appeal as “a check on Krasikov’s status.”

The conversations never reached the highest levels of the German government and the potential inclusion of Krasikov on the exchange list was not seriously considered, the German source said. However, previously unreported discussions show that Russian officials have, at least to some extent, agreed with the US proposal.

Asked for comment, a State Department spokesman told the publication that he would not publicly comment on any speculation “in order to maintain the best opportunity for a successful outcome.”

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said on Wednesday that the United States provided the Russian side with proposals for the return of American citizens held in Russia.

Friday Blinken talked with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the proposed exchange.

According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Lavrov urged Blinken to return to the mode of professional dialogue in the mode of “quiet diplomacy”.

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