President Biden said Tuesday he is 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” Tuesday with national-security advisers discussing Russia‘s potential use of a tactical nuclear weapon in the war. He said he’s not sure whether Moscow is waging a “false flag” operation.
Mr. Biden addressed the basketball star’s predicament in Russian detention after a Moscow court on Tuesday rejected her appeal of a nine-year sentence for carrying oil derived from cannabis in her airport luggage.
“We’re in constant contact with Russian authorities to get Brittney and others out. So far we’ve not been meeting with much positive response,” Mr. Biden told reporters at the White House. “But we’re not stopping.”
Ms. Griner played in Russia during the WNBA off-season.
U.S. authorities have floated a prisoner swap with Russia but so far it hasn’t made progress, 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 claims Ukraine is set to use a dirty bomb, or an explosive laced with radioactive material, on its own territory so it could blame Russia and rally support for its counter-offensive.
Ukrainian authorities said Russia might use the bomb itself and blame Kyiv.
“I’m not guaranteeing you that it’s a ‘false flag’ operation yet, I don’t know,” Mr. Biden said. “But it would be a serious, serious mistake.”