Russian President Vladimir Putin said that more US-Russian prisoner exchanges are possible if Moscow and Washington find a compromise.
Putin spoke a day after Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout was swapped for WNBA star and two-time Olympian Brittney Griner.
Asked after a summit in Kyrgyzstan, Putin told the press that “everything is possible” when it comes to future prisoner swaps. He also noted that “compromises have been found” that cleared the way for Thursday’s exchange of Griner for Bout.
“We aren’t refusing to continue this work in the future,” the Russian leader said, making his first comments about the closely watched trade.
Despite negotiating for Griner's release, the most high-profile American jailed abroad, the US failed to win the freedom of another of its citizens, Paul Whelan. Whelan, a corporate security executive, has been imprisoned in Russia since December 2018 on espionage charges that his family and Washington have said are baseless.
US officials said they did not see a path to bringing about Whelan’s release, saying Russia has treated his case differently because of the “sham espionage” charges against him. But they added that they believe communication channels with Moscow remain open for negotiations about his freedom.
But talk of negotiations with the US was soured by Putin’s troubling message about nuclear war, saying that any country that dared attack Russia with nuclear weapons would be wiped from the face of the earth.
"After [our] missile attack warning system receives a signal, hundreds of our missiles are in the air on our side,” Putin described.
“It is impossible to stop them. But it is still an answer. This means that the fall of enemy missiles on the territory of the Russian Federation is inevitable. They will still fall. But the enemy will be wiped out. Because it is impossible to intercept hundreds of missiles. And this, of course, is a serious deterrent.”
While speaking to the press, Putin also accused what he calls 'western elites' of deliberately creating chaos and aggravating global tensions for ideological reasons.