Conflicts & War

Russia says no request for Blinken-Lavrov talks from US

Moscow, July 28 (EFE).- Russia Thursday said it received no request from the United States for talks between US Secretary of States Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The denial comes after Blinken told reporters in Washington that the US presented a “substantial proposal” to Moscow for releasing two Americans, Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, held by Russia.

“Apart from media reports, there have been no requests on this score,” the Russian foreign ministry said on Wednesday evening.

“We are guided by routine diplomatic practice rather than megaphone practice,” the ministry said, according to the official Interfax news agency.

Blinken said he planned to speak with Lavrov in the coming days for the first talks between the two since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb.24.

“We put a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago to facilitate their release,” Blinken said. “In coming days, I expect to speak with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov.”

He said the two governments communicated repeatedly and directly on that proposal and that he would “use the conversation to follow up personally” to move toward a resolution.

The CNN television network reported that the White House has offered to swap Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms trafficker serving a 25-year US prison sentence, as part of a deal to secure the release of Griner and Whelan.

However, there has been no official word on the possible prisoner exchange deal.

Griner, a basketball player, has been in Russian custody for the past five months.

Russian authorities have accused her of possessing vape cartridges containing cannabis oil, a banned substance, in her luggage.

On Wednesday, the athlete testified in a Russian courtroom and admitted carrying cannabis in her luggage but denied any criminal intent since she unintentionally brought the banned drugs into Russia.

She criticized the irregularities committed in her detention in Russia.

Whelan is a former Marine arrested from a Moscow hotel in 2018 and sentenced to 16 years in prison after being found guilty of carrying out “espionage activities” for the US.

Blinken noted that Joe Biden was directly involved in the negotiations and that the president had authorized the proposal sent to Moscow.

Bout, a former Soviet military officer, is serving a 25-year prison sentence in the US.

Nicknamed the “merchant of death,” Bout is accused of conspiring to kill Americans and selling weapons to FARC, a former Colombian guerrilla outfit.

Bout has maintained he is innocent.

The US recently secured the release of Trevor Reed, a former Marine held in Russia for more than two years.

Reed was traded for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot, then serving a 20-year federal prison sentence for cocaine smuggling conspiracy. EFE

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