In what the top US diplomat described as a “frank and direct conversation”, Blinkin said he “pressed the Kremlin to accept the substantive proposals we have put forward regarding the release of Paul Whelan and Britney Greiner.”
Speaking at a press conference at the State Department, Blinken declined to say whether he thought Russia was more or less likely to act on the proposal after the conversation, nor did he elaborate on how Lavrov would respond.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Friday that Lavrov “strongly recommended” to Blinkin that the United States return to a “calm diplomacy” approach regarding a potential prisoner swap “without adding any speculative information.”
Blinken, who on Wednesday announced his intention to speak with Lavrov this week, said he believed it was important for his colleague to hear directly from him.
The top US diplomat said he also discussed the possibility of implementing a deal to allow Ukrainian grain to pass safely through the Black Sea, noting that they “look forward to seeing that move as soon as possible.” The two discussed the issue “in detail,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said, with Lavrov blaming US sanctions for complicating matters “and the US promise to provide adequate exemptions for Russia’s forthcoming food supply.” unfulfilled”.
Blinkin said he also warned Lavrov against Russia’s attempts to further annex Ukraine, stressing that “the world will not recognize the annexation” and will “impose significant additional costs on Russia if it goes ahead with its plans.”
In his statement, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Lavrov told Blinkin that Moscow’s “goals and objectives” in the war in Ukraine would be “fully implemented.”
According to a senior State Department official, the call took place shortly after noon Washington time and lasted about 25 minutes.
Earlier on Friday, Lavrov downplayed the prospect of calls being made that day and also suggested that the issue of detained Americans should be discussed through other channels.
“It is clear that this is unlikely to happen today, but in the coming days we will offer our American counterparts an exact date,” Russia’s foreign minister said during a visit to Uzbekistan.
“If we talk about the exchange of prisoners, about the exchange of people detained in Russia and the United States, we have previously commented on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that this issue has been under consideration for more than a year at the Geneva meeting. in June 2021 between Presidents Putin and Biden.
“There they agreed to authorize specialists to deal with this matter. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was not among them. But with that in mind, I’ll listen to what you have to say,” he said.
Prior to the phone call between Blinkin and Lavrov, US officials expressed frustration at Moscow’s lack of substantive response to the proposal to release Whelan and Greiner. State Department spokesman Ned Price acknowledged Thursday that “this hasn’t progressed as far as we’d like.”