President Biden said on Tuesday he was in “constant contact” with Russian authorities to get Brittney Griner and other American detainees out of Russia, and that it would be a “serious mistake” for Moscow to deploy radioactive weapons in Ukraine.
The president said he spent “a lot of time” on Tuesday with national security advisers to discuss Russia’s potential use of a tactical nuclear weapon in the war. He said he was not sure that Moscow was carrying out a “false flag” operation.
Mr Biden spoke of the basketball star’s predicament in custody in Russia after a Moscow court on Tuesday rejected his appeal against a nine-year sentence for carrying cannabis-derived oil in his luggage at the airport.
“We are in constant contact with the Russian authorities to get Brittney and others out. So far, we haven’t seen a lot of positive responses,” Biden told reporters at the White House. “But we don’t stop.”
Ms. Griner played in Russia during the WNBA offseason.
US authorities have initiated a prisoner swap with Russia, but so far it has not progressed as diplomacy is complicated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
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Mr Biden also said it would be a “serious mistake” for Russia to use a tactical nuclear weapon. Moscow says Ukraine is about to use a dirty bomb, or explosive containing radioactive material, on its own territory so it can blame Russia and rally support for its counteroffensive.
Ukrainian authorities said Russia could use the bomb itself and blame Kyiv.
“I’m not guaranteeing you yet that this is a ‘false flag’ operation, I don’t know,” Mr Biden said. “But that would be a big, big mistake.”