|Antony Blinken and Sergei Lavrov meet in Geneva, Switzerland|
WASHINGTON - This is the first conversation between the two since Russia launched its attack on Ukraine on February 24. United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday (29/7/2022) held talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov over a 25-minute phone call. Blinken urged the Kremlin to accept Washington's proposal to secure the release of two Americans detained by Russia. "We had honest and direct conversations. I urge the Kremlin to accept the substantial proposals we put forward for the release of Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner," Blinken said at a press conference at the US State Department.
The discussion between the two emerged when a source said Russia was trying to add Vadim Krasikov, a convicted murderer, to the prisoner swap. According to the source, US officials did not take this idea seriously because Krasikov was in German custody. Without providing details, the White House National Security Council rejected the offer. "Keeping two American hostages wrongfully held for the release of a Russian assassin in third country custody is not a serious counteroffer. It is a bad faith attempt to avoid a deal on the table that Russia has to take," said US National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne. Watson. Lavrov suggested to Blinken that the two sides should have secret diplomacy on the issue of the prisoner swap.
"Regarding the possible exchange of imprisoned Russian and US citizens, the Russian side strongly recommends returning to this professional handling practice and using 'silent diplomacy' rather than discarding speculative information," the Russian foreign ministry said. This week the US announced it had made a bid with Russia, a few weeks ago, to secure the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner and former US Marine Paul Whelan but did not disclose what the US offered.
A source familiar with the matter said the US was willing to swap Russian prisoner Viktor Bout who is involved in arms trafficking as part of the deal.
Bout is serving a 25-year prison sentence in the US. During the talks, Blinken also stressed that Russia fulfills its commitments to the agreement with Ukraine reached in Turkey to reopen exports of grains and fertilizers that have been blocked by Moscow's forces, thereby exacerbating the global food crisis. "Ambassador Brink, our ambassador to Ukraine, was in Odessa this morning. He confirmed that the ships were loaded and ready to depart. As I explained, we would like to see that progress as soon as possible," he said. Lavrov told Blinken that US sanctions were complicating the global food situation.
The US Secretary of State also warned Lavrov that Russia would not further annex Ukrainian territory. "The world will not recognize annexation. We will impose significant additional costs on Russia if it goes ahead with its plans," he said. Lavrov responded to Blinken's warning by saying that sending US and NATO weapons to the Ukrainian armed forces would only prolong the conflict and suffering of the regime in Kyiv and multiply the casualties.