Russia said Foreign Minister level talks proposed by the State Department to discuss a substantial offer by the Biden administration to secure the release of two Americans who have been detained in Russia will be considered when time permits.
At a news conference Wednesday, US secretary of state Antony Blinken said that in the coming days, he expects to speak with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for the first time since the war against Ukraine began.
Blinken said he plans to raise the issue of Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner as a follow up to a substantial proposal that Washington made 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 and, I hope, move us toward a resolution,” he told reporters.
However, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti quoted Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova as saying that Lavrov will “pay attention” to the US request when “time permits.”
“Now he has a busy schedule with international contacts: the SCO Ministerial Council in Tashkent, bilateral meetings.” she added.
Earlier, State Department spokesperson Ned Price had said, “Foreign Minister Lavrov is in the midst of travel so I don’t have any update to provide in terms of when they may be able to connect. But we continue to discuss that in the appropriate channels.”
According to a CNN report, Washington has offered to release convicted Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout in exchange for Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner, but the White House and the Department of State refused to reveal details of the proposed deal.
Dubbed the merchant of death, Viktor Bout is an arms dealer currently serving a 25-year jail term on charges of arming a Colombian rebel group to kill Americans.
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