The Secretary of State has publicly demanded a call, revealing this week that the United States has proposed to Russia to return Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.
Washington-Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he spoke on the phone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday, urging Moscow to accept the offer to release the United States. WNBA star Brittney Griner and another American detainee, Paul Whelan..
Blinken was the first meeting with the Russian side before Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
Blinken did not provide details of the reaction to what Lavrov had previously Called a “substantial proposal” for Russia to free Welan and Greener..
Blinken publicly demanded the call and revealed the existence of an offer to Russia. Those familiar with it say it involves the exchange of Weeran and Grinner with the convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
Blinken described the call as a “candid and direct conversation,” primarily centered on proposals for the release of Americans.
“I asked Foreign Minister Lavrov to proceed with the proposal. I can’t give you an assessment of whether it is more or less likely.”
Brinken also put pressure on Lavrov on Russia’s importance following an agreement allowing Ukrainian grain transport to leave the Black Sea, if Moscow proceeded with plans to annex parts of eastern and southern Ukraine. He said he warned about the results.
On Thursday, the Kremlin warned that the possibility of a prisoner exchange with the United States needs to be quietly negotiated without fanfare.
When asked about the US offer, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov replied that the exchange of prisoners was usually carefully negotiated behind the scenes.
“I know that such issues are being discussed without the disclosure of such information,” Peskoff told reporters in a conference call. “Usually the general public learns about it when the agreement is already in place.”
He emphasized that “the agreement has not been finalized” and refused to provide further details.
In another statement, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Russian and US officials were negotiating a possible prisoner exchange, “no concrete results yet.”
“We proceed from the assumption that the interests of both parties should be taken into account when negotiating,” Zakarowa said.
Blinken’s comment on Wednesday was the first time that the US government had publicly disclosed concrete actions taken to secure Grinner’s release. WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury’s two-time Olympic gold medalist and player was arrested in mid-February when an inspector found an arc cartridge containing hemp oil in his luggage at an airport in Moscow.
Brittney Griner: Secretary of State discusses prisoner exchange offer
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