In what the top US diplomat described as a “frank and direct conversation,” Blinkin said he “pressure the Kremlin to accept the substantive proposal we have put forward regarding the release of Paul Whelan and Britney Greiner.”
Speaking at a news conference at the State Department, Blinken declined to say whether he thought the Russians were more or less likely to act on the proposal after the conversation, nor did he describe how Lavrov responded.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday that Lavrov “strongly suggested” to Blinkin that the United States return to a “quiet diplomacy” approach regarding a possible prisoner exchange “without stuffing speculative information.”
Blinken, who announced on Wednesday his intention to speak to Lavrov this week, said he believed it was important for his counterpart to hear from him directly.
The top US diplomat said he also discussed the prospect of implementing a deal to allow Ukrainian grain to pass safely through the Black Sea, noting that they “look forward to seeing that move forward as soon as possible.” The two discussed the matter “in detail,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said, with Lavrov blaming US sanctions for complicating the issue “and US promises to provide adequate waivers to Russian food supplies yet to be fulfilled.”
Blinkin said he also warned Lavrov against Russia’s attempt to annex more Ukraine, stressing that “the world will not recognize the annexations” and “it will impose significant additional costs on Russia if it goes ahead with its plans.”
In its statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that 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 prospects of the call taking place that day, and also suggested that the issue of the 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 colleagues an appropriate date,” the Russian foreign minister said during a visit to Uzbekistan.
“If we are talking about an exchange of prisoners, about an exchange of people detained in Russia and the United States, we have previously commented on behalf of the State Department that this issue was considered more than a year ago at the Geneva meeting in June 2021 between Presidents Putin and Biden,” Lavrov said. .
“There they agreed to authorize specialists to deal with these issues. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not among them. But with that, I will listen to what he has to say,” he said.
Prior to the phone call between Blinken and Lavrov, US officials expressed frustration at Moscow’s substantive lack of response to the proposal to release Whelan and Greiner. State Department spokesman Ned Price acknowledged Thursday that “this has not moved as far as we would like.”