Blinken says he had a “frank” discussion with Russia’s foreign minister during a meeting with Russian foreign minister Lavrov on Friday

In what the US Foreign Minister described as “a frank and direct conversation”, Blinken said he “pressed the Kremlin to accept the substantial proposal we presented on the release of Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner “.

The proposal, which has been on the table since June, includes an offer to exchange convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, CNN reported earlier this week.

Speaking at a press conference at the State Department, Blinken declined to say whether he thought the Russians were more or less likely to follow through on the proposal after the conversation, or to describe Lavrov’s response. .

Blinken, who on Wednesday announced his intention to speak to Lavrov this week, stressed that he thought it was important for his counterpart to hear directly from him.

The senior US diplomat said he also spoke about the expectation of the implementation of the agreement allowing Ukrainian grain to pass safely through the Black Sea, noting that they “hope to see this move forward as soon as possible. “.

Blinken said he also warned Lavrov against Russia’s attempts to annex more Ukraine, stressing that “the world will not recognize annexations” and “will impose significant additional costs on Russia if it goes moving forward with his plans”.

According to a senior State Department official, the call took place shortly after noon Washington time and lasted about 25 minutes.

Earlier Friday, Lavrov played down the prospects of the call that day and also suggested the issue of detained Americans be discussed through other channels.

“Obviously, it’s unlikely to happen today, but in the next few days we will suggest a suitable date to our American colleagues,” the Russian foreign minister said during a visit to Uzbekistan.

“If we are talking about an exchange of prisoners, an exchange of people detained in Russia and the United States, we have already stated on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that this subject was considered more than a year ago. year at the Meeting in Geneva in June 2021 between Presidents Putin and Biden,” Lavrov noted, according to Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

“There they agreed to allow the relevant people to deal with these matters. The Foreign Office is not one of them. But still, I will listen to what he has to say,” he said. declared.

Prior to the call between Blinken and Lavrov, US officials had expressed frustration at the lack of a substantial response from Moscow to the offer to free Whelan and Griner. State Department spokesman Ned Price acknowledged Thursday that “it hasn’t evolved as much as we would like.”

CNN’s Evgenii Shapovalov contributed reporting.

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