US, Russia high diplomats maintain ‘frank’ first talks since warfare


US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says he had a frank telephone discussion with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Photo: AFP
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says he had a ‘frank’ phone dialogue with Russian Overseas Minister Sergei Lavrov. Picture: AFP

WASHINGTON: The highest diplomats of the US and Russia spoke Friday for the primary time for the reason that Ukraine warfare, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken describing a “frank” change as he pushed to free two Individuals.

Blinken initiated the decision with Overseas Minister Sergei Lavrov, whom he had shunned as early as a couple of weeks in the past, as he pressed Russia to simply accept a proposal to free prisoners.

“We had a frank and direct dialog. I pressed the Kremlin to simply accept the substantial proposal that we put forth on the discharge of Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner,” Blinken instructed reporters.

President Joe Biden has confronted rising public strain to discover a manner dwelling for Griner, a basketball star jailed for transport of hashish oil, and Whelan, a former Marine jailed on espionage costs he denies.

Blinken declined to characterize Lavrov’s response, saying, “I am unable to offer you an evaluation of whether or not I believe issues are any roughly seemingly.”

“However it was vital that he heard straight from me on that,” Blinken mentioned.

Russia’s overseas ministry, in an announcement on the decision, mentioned that relations between the 2 nations “are in sturdy want of normalization.”

“As for a possible swap of Russian and American prisoners, the Russian facet insisted that we return to a regime {of professional} dialogue, freed from media hypothesis, within the framework of discreet diplomacy,” it mentioned.

Lavrov additionally denounced the US navy and NATO for his or her provide of billions of {dollars} of weapons to Ukraine, saying it “solely extended the agony of the Kyiv regime, extending the battle and its victims.” the overseas ministry mentioned.

Warnings on annexation

The US proposal, despatched quietly to Russia a number of weeks earlier, reportedly consists of swapping the 2 Individuals for convicted Russian arms smuggler Viktor Bout and would observe an identical prisoner change in April.

Blinken mentioned he additionally pressed Lavrov on Russia honoring a Turkish-brokered proposal to ship grain out of Ukraine and on purported plans by Moscow to annex extra elements of Ukraine seized by Russian troops.

Blinken mentioned he instructed Lavrov that the world won’t acknowledge annexation.

“It was essential that the Russians hear straight from us that that won’t be accepted — and never solely will it not be accepted, it’s going to end in extra vital prices being imposed upon Russia if it follows via,” Blinken mentioned.

Blinken mentioned Russia was getting ready “sham referendums” to attempt to “falsely show that the folks in these elements of Ukraine by some means search to grow to be a part of Russia.”

The votes could be a part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s goal of “gobbling up as a lot Ukrainian territory as he can,” he added.

The phone dialog was the primary between Blinken and Lavrov since February 15, when the highest US diplomat warned Russia in opposition to invading Ukraine, repeating a message he delivered in individual in Geneva a month earlier.

Putin went forward and attacked 9 days later, main the US and its allies to impose sweeping sanctions and to hunt to isolate Russia on the world stage.

Blinken refused to fulfill Lavrov after they each attended talks in early July in Bali of the Group of 20 main economies. They’re prone to cross paths once more subsequent week at talks of the Affiliation of Southeast Asian Nations in Cambodia.

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