Blinken Speaks to Russia’s Foreign Minister, Seeking Deal for Griner and Whelan

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke on Friday to his Russian counterpart, Sergey V. Lavrov, and urged him to settle for a proposal for the discharge of Brittney Griner and Paul N. Whelan, however reported no breakthrough.

Mr. Blinken instructed reporters at a information convention that he had spoken to his Russian counterpart by cellphone, their first dialog since weeks earlier than Russia’s Feb 24. invasion of Ukraine. He declined to say how Mr. Lavrov responded.

“I urged Foreign Minister Lavrov to move forward with that proposal,” he stated. “I’m not going to characterize his response, and I can’t give you an assessment of whether I think things are any more or less likely.”

In its account of the decision, Russia’s Foreign Ministry stated that when talking in regards to the doable trade of imprisoned residents, Mr. Lavrov urged returning to a process of “quiet diplomacy,” with out “speculative information campaigns.”

Ms. Griner, a W.N.B.A. star who had been enjoying for a Russian workforce throughout the low season, is on trial in a Russian court docket and faces a sentence of up to 10 years in jail on drug prices. The 31-year-old athlete was detained in a Moscow airport a couple of week earlier than Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, after customs officers found cannabis oil in her baggage.

Mr. Whelan, a former Marine and company safety govt, was detained in 2018 in a Moscow lodge, the place he had been staying for a buddy’s marriage ceremony. In 2020, a Russian court docket sentenced him to 16 years in jail for espionage, a cost that he and his household have denied.

The State Department has labeled each Mr. Whelan and Ms. Griner as “wrongfully detained.”

According to an individual briefed on the matter, the Biden administration supplied final month to commerce the Russian arms supplier Viktor Bout, who’s at the moment serving a 25-year federal jail sentence within the United States, for Ms. Griner and Mr. Whelan.

Mr. Blinken additionally stated he had pressed Mr. Lavrov to make good on a current Russian settlement to enable the passage of Ukrainian grain from Black Sea ports, and instructed him that the world would by no means settle for the additional Russian annexation of Ukrainian territory.

He warned Mr. Lavrov in opposition to “sham referendums” meant to “falsely demonstrate that the people in these parts of Ukraine somehow seek to become part of Russia.”

Such actions, Mr. Blinken stated, “will result in additional significant costs being imposed upon Russia, if it follows through on this plan.”

Mr. Lavrov, in accordance to Russia’s Foreign Ministry, stated that the grain scenario was “complicated by U.S. sanctions.” He additionally stated that Russian forces “strictly observe the norms of international law.”

He added that Russia’s aims in Ukraine “will be fully fulfilled.”

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