Washington [US], July 30 (ANI): US Secretary Antony Blinken on Friday said that he held a discussion with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, in a phone call and pressed him to respond to an offer Washington has made to secure the release of American citizens detained by Moscow.
Blinken said that he held a “frank and direct conversation,” with Sergey Lavrov and “pressed the Kremlin to accept the substantial proposal that we put forth on the release of Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner,” CNN quoted Blinken as saying.
According to a senior State Department official, the call took place shortly after noon Washington time and lasted roughly 25 minutes.
Speaking at a press conference at the State Department, Blinken declined to say whether he thought Russians were more or less likely to move on the proposal following the conversation, nor would he describe how Lavrov responded, CNN reported.
The top US diplomat said he also discussed the expectation that the deal to allow Ukrainian grain to transit safely through the Black Sea be implemented, noting that they’re “looking to see that move forward as soon as possible.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry said the two discussed this matter “in detail,” with Lavrov blaming US sanctions for complicating the issue “and US promises to provide appropriate exemptions for Russian food supplies have not yet been fulfilled.”
Blinken said he also warned Lavrov against Russia attempting to annex more of Ukraine, stressing that the “world will not recognize annexations” and “will impose additional significant costs on Russia if it moves forward with its plans,” CNN reported.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday that Lavrov “strongly suggested” to Blinken that the United States should return to a mode of “quiet diplomacy” regarding a possible prisoner exchange “without speculative information stuffing.”
In its statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Lavrov told Blinken that Moscow’s “goals and objectives” in the war in Ukraine “will be fully implemented.”
Sergey Lavrov, called for a return to “silent diplomacy” on the issue of the prisoner exchange, without speculation and stuffing, the Russian Foreign Ministry said following the conversation.
“Regarding the possible exchange of imprisoned Russian citizens, the United States has been urged by the Russian side to return to a professional dialogue in the ‘silent diplomacy’ mode, without speculative media stuffing,” the ministry said.
Blinken announced on Wednesday his intention to speak to Lavrov this week and emphasized that he thought it was important that his counterpart hear directly from him.
Blinken said the United States had communicated a “substantial offer” to Moscow in order to bring home basketball star Brittney Griner and former US Marine Paul Whelan, although he declined to disclose what the deal would entail.
“We put a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago to facilitate their release,” said Blinken.
The statement marked the first time the US government has publicly revealed any concrete action it has taken to secure the release of Griner, who was arrested on drug-related charges at a Moscow airport in February and testified Wednesday at her trial.
As per reports, the Biden administration has proposed returning convicted arms merchant Viktor Bout to Russia in exchange for the release of detained Americans Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, reported New York Post.
“We communicated a substantial offer that we believe could be successful based on a history of conversations with the Russians,” a senior administration official told CNN. “We communicated that a number of weeks ago, in June.”
According to CNN, President Biden has come around to supporting the exchange for Bout after months of internal debate, overriding opposition by the Justice Department.
The official said it was up to Russia to respond to the proposed swap, “yet at the same time that does not leave us passive, as we continue to communicate the offer at very senior levels.” (ANI)