US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to discuss ‘substantial offer’ with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to free detained Americans

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (File image)

Photo : AP

Washington: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will hold talks with his Russian counterpart in “the coming days.” It will be for the first time that US and Russian officials speak to each other since the outbreak of the Ukraine war. During the talks, Blinken will urge Russia to free detained Americans.
Blinken said that he would have a telephone call “in the coming days” with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, reported AFP. During the call, Blinken will discuss a “substantial offer” to release basketball star Brittney Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan. The Secretary of State told reporters that both the Americans had been wrongfully detained.

“We put a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago to facilitate their release. Our governments have communicated repeatedly and directly on that proposal and I’ll use the conversation to follow up personally,” said Blinken as quoted by AFP. However, Blinken refused to comment on reports that the US was offering to trade both the detained Americans and a convicted Russian arms smuggler, Viktor Bout.

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Notably, earlier in April, the United States and Russia had already engaged former US Marine Trevor Reed for convicted drug smuggler Konstantin Yaroshenko. Notably, the US basketball star had pleaded guilty to carrying cannabis oil in Russia. Earlier on Wednesday, Griner at her trial that she unintentionally carried the oil.

Meanwhile, Whelan is a security official at an auto parts company. He was arrested in Moscow in December 2018. Two years later, he was sentenced to 16 years in prison for espionage. However, Whelan denied the charges.

Notably, the telephone conversation between Blinken and Lavrov will be the first since February 15. Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.