All signs point to Brittney Griner being convicted in Russia on drug charges that could carry up to 10 years in prison. Even before Griner pleaded guilty to “no intent” last week at her trial, her conviction was almost certain – less than 1% of cases in Russia end in acquittal.
The eight-time WNBA All-Star who has languished in a Russian penal colony for years, however, is not the desired outcome for her supporters or the United States government, which has classified her as “unlawfully detained.”
“We know she’s going to be convicted … so is there an exit strategy?” Rob Saale, a former FBI hostage negotiation expert, told USA TODAY Sports.
That “exit strategy” will manifest itself in the form of a prisoner exchange with Russia, experts predict. In April, the US returned former Marine Trevor Reed from a Russian prison in exchange for Russian pilot and convicted drug trafficker Konstantin Yaroskenko. Reed was sentenced to nine years for the attack, but began to experience health problems while in custody, his family said.
“There’s not a lot of means that the US can use to get the Russians to release her other than making a deal and releasing somebody who is here in our prison,” said Saale, who has been the director of the US Fusion Hostage Recovery Cell since 2017.19.
Griner’s trial in Russia is ongoing.
‘Hostage Diplomacy’:Brittney Griner’s potential prisoner swap with Russia is both promising and dangerous
►A senior military official told reporters Friday that the Pentagon will not track the weapons it sends to Ukraine, but he has seen no indication that they are being misused. “We feel pretty good that the Ukrainians are using the weapons we provided them and we haven’t seen any indication that those weapons have gone anywhere other than to fight the Russians,” the official said.
►More than 9 million people have crossed the border from Ukraine since Russia first invaded Ukraine in February, according to the United Nations refugee agency. The number of individual refugees from Ukraine across Europe is almost 6 million.
NASA and Roskosmos agreed on an agreement on sharing the ride of astronauts
According to multiple reports, the long-awaited agreement between NASA and the Russian space agency Roscosmos was signed on Friday to enable integrated flights to the International Space Station.
The agreement will allow American astronauts to fly on Soyuz spacecraft and Russian cosmonauts to fly on American-made commercial crew vehicles. The first of two separate Russian launches to seat American astronauts is scheduled to take off in September, while Russian cosmonauts will join at least two future SpaceX missions, according to CNN.
“The agreement is in the interests of Russia and the United States and will promote the development of cooperation within the framework of the ISS program,” Roscosmos said in a statement, as reported by Reuters, adding that the agreement would facilitate “space exploration for peaceful purposes.”
G20 financial meetings overshadowed by war in Ukraine
The financial leaders of the Group of 20, the world’s richest and largest economies, ended their meeting on the Indonesian island of Bali without a final joint statement after talks were overshadowed by divisions over the war in Ukraine.
As host of the G-20 this year, Indonesia sought to bridge divisions among G-20 members over Russia’s invasion, but hostility over the conflict was evident despite agreement on the urgency of global economic challenges exacerbated by the war.
Asked why there was no joint statement or press release from the meeting, Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said everyone involved agreed that the meeting was held “in a very challenging and difficult situation due to geopolitical tensions”.
A spokesman for Yellen did not immediately respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment.
White House: Russia seeks drones from Iran
The White House warned on Saturday that Russia was trying to acquire attack-capable drones from Iran and said it had intelligence that Russian officials had visited an airport in central Iran at least twice to see weapons-capable drones.
“We estimate that the official Russian delegation recently received a display of Iranian drones capable of attack. We are releasing these images taken in June showing Iranian drones seen by a Russian government delegation that day,” US national security adviser Jake Sullivan told The Associated Press. “This indicates Russia’s continued interest in acquiring Iranian attack-capable drones.”
The images were first obtained by CNN. Russian officials inspected the drones at Kashan Airport on June 8 and July 15, the White House said.
Help from abroad:American telemedicine system offers free consultations to medical professionals in Ukraine
Russia steps up attacks on civilians on Saturday
Russia stepped up its attack on Ukraine on Saturday, and civilian casualties were reported in several areas of the country.
At least three civilians were killed and three others were injured in a Russian missile attack on the northern Ukrainian town of Chuhuyev in the early hours, the regional police chief said. In neighboring Sumy region, one civilian was killed and at least seven were injured after the Russians opened mortar and artillery fire on three towns and villages near the Russian border, regional governor Dmytro Zivitsky said on Telegram on Saturday morning.
Seven civilians have been killed and 14 others injured in the past 24 hours in towns in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, the governor said Saturday morning.
And in the south of Ukraine, two people were wounded in Russian shelling in the city of Bashtanka, northeast of the Black Sea city of Mykolaiv, according to a Telegram published by regional governor Vitaliy Kim.
However, Ukrainian troops repelled a Russian attack on the strategic eastern highway overnight, said Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the Luhansk region. Haidai said Russia has been trying to seize the main road link between the cities of Lysichansk and Bakhmut “for more than two months”.
Contributed by Associated Press