Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that he will speak with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, although Blinken said the conversation “will not be a negotiation about Ukraine.”
Later in the day, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that there have not yet received requests for a Blinken-Lavrov call. “There have been no requests, only media reports,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
Blinken said he plans to speak with Lavrov in the “coming days,” and the talks will likely be focused on the status of two Americans that are detained in Russia, WNBA star Britney Griner and former US Marine Paul Whelan.
According to CNN, the Biden administration has offered to exchange Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer serving a 25-year sentence in the US, for Griner and Whelan. Griner is currently on trial in Russia for drug possession, and Whelan was charged with espionage and sentenced to prison for 16 years.
Blinken said he will also discuss other issues with Lavrov, including the grain deal Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, and the UN recently signed. The US had nothing to do with the brokering of the agreement that is meant to facilitate the export of Ukrainian grain, but Blinken said he will push Russia to “make good on the commitments they made.”
Up to this point, the Biden administration has abandoned diplomacy with Russia while fueling the war in Ukraine by shipping billions of dollars in weapons into the country.
The last time Blinken and Lavrov spoke was on February 15. Blinken canceled their last planned meeting after Russia recognized the independence of the breakaway republics in Ukraine’s Donbas region, a move that came right before the invasion. Blinken also avoided Lavrov at a recent G20 summit in Indonesia.