Blinken and Lavrov hold “frank and direct” conversation on U.S.-Russia prisoner exchange

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held a “frank and direct” conversation Friday on the exchange of Russian and American prisoners.

The United States announced Wednesday that it had made a proposal to Russia for the exchange of Brittney Griner, a U.S. WNBA basketball player, and former Marine Paul Whelan. In exchange, Russia would receive arms dealer Viktor Bout, according to CNN reports.

“I have pressed the Kremlin to accept the substantial proposal we put forward on the release of Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner,” Blinken has stressed about the call with Lavrov, which marks the first contact between the two officials since the start of the war in Ukraine.

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However, the secretary of state has not specified what Lavrov’s reaction has been, nor has he expressed himself on his expectation that the exchange can finally take place. “I cannot give an assessment of whether I think things are more or less likely,” he has said.

On the other hand, the top representatives of the Russian and American diplomacy have also discussed the agreement for the export of grain from Ukrainian ports, reached a week ago by Russia and Ukraine, mediated by Turkey and the United Nations.

Regarding this issue, Blinken has urged his Russian counterpart to ensure that the agreement is finally implemented, since, according to Ukraine, there are already vessels loaded with wheat waiting to sail through Black Sea waters and cross the Bosporus.

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At this point, the Russian minister has remarked that everything related to food exports “is complicated” by the sanctions that the United States has imposed on Russia in response to the war in Ukraine.

According to Lavrov, Washington is not keeping its word to exempt food supplies from sanctions, the Russian Foreign Ministry has noted and TASS news agency reports.

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