US Secretary Blinken has ‘frank and direct’ conversation with Russian Foreign Minister by phone

WASHINGTON: US Secretary Antony Blinker said on Friday that he had a discussion with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrovduring a phone call and pressed him to respond to an offer made by Washington to secure the release of US citizens held by Moscow.
Blinken said he had a “frank and direct conversation” with Sergey Lavrov and “pressed the Kremlin to accept the substantial offer we have made on the release of Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner,” CNN quoted Blinken as saying.
According to an elder State Department Officially, the call took place shortly after noon Washington time and lasted about 25 minutes.
Speaking at a press conference at the State Department, Blinken declined to say whether he thought the Russians were more or less likely to follow through on the proposal after the conversation, or to describe Lavrov’s response. , reported CNN.
The senior US diplomat said he also spoke about the expectation of the implementation of the agreement allowing Ukrainian grain to pass safely through the Black Sea, noting that they “hope to see this move forward as soon as possible. “.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said the two discussed the issue “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 held”.
Blinken said he also warned Lavrov against Russia’s attempts to annex more Ukraine, stressing that “the world will not recognize annexations” and “will impose significant additional costs on Russia if it goes moving forward with his 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 stuffing speculative information.” .
In its statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Lavrov told Blinken that Moscow’s “aims and objectives” in the war in Ukraine “will be fully implemented”.
Sergei Lavrov, called for a return to “silent diplomacy” on the issue of prisoner exchange, without speculation or farce, the Russian Foreign Ministry said after the conversation.
“Regarding the possible exchange of imprisoned Russian citizens, the United States has been urged by the Russian side to resume a professional dialogue in the mode of ‘silent diplomacy’, without speculative media stuffing,” the ministry said. .
Blinken announced on Wednesday his intention to speak to Lavrov this week and stressed that he thought it was important for his counterpart to hear from him directly.
Blinken said the United States communicated a “substantial offer” to Moscow to bring home basketball star Brittney Griner and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, though he declined to divulge what the deal would involve.
“We put a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago to facilitate their release,” Blinken said.
The statement marked the first time the US government has publicly revealed any concrete steps 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 during his trial.
According to reports, the Biden administration has offered to send convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout back to Russia in exchange for the release of detained Americans Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, the New York Post reported.
“We have 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 this several weeks ago, in June.”
According to CNN, President Biden came to support the swap for Bout after months of internal debate, overcoming opposition from the Justice Department.
The official said it was up to Russia to respond to the proposed exchange, “but at the same time it does not leave us passive, as we continue to communicate the offer at very high levels.”