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No plan for Biden-Putin call on proposal to free 2 Americans, says US

epa08884610 Then US Vice President Joe Biden (L) shakes hands with then Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Moscow, Russia, 10 March 2011 (reissued 15 December 2020). Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Joe Biden for his victory in the US presidential election in a telegram published on the Kremlin's website on 15 December 2020. EPA-EFE/MAXIM SHIPENKOV

The US said on Friday it has no plans for a phone call between President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to discuss Washington’s proposal to free two Americans jailed in Russia.

“We do not have a plan for the president to call President Putin,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.

“There’s nothing for me to announce. We do not have a plan for that at this time.”

Earlier in the day, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he raised what the US has described as a “significant proposal” for the Americans’ release directly with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

The top diplomat declined to detail Lavrov’s response on the offer, which was put forward weeks ago.

“I urged Foreign Minister Lavrov to move forward with that proposal,” Blinken said, describing the conversation as “frank and direct.”

At issue is the release of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, two Americans who remain in Russian custody.

Griner, 31, is a basketball player who was arrested in February after Russian authorities said they found marijuana oil in her possession. She pleaded guilty earlier in July to drug charges but has maintained she used medicinal cannabis to treat pain and denied she intended to violate Russian law.

Whelan has been held in Russia since 2018 on espionage charges.

The US has not offered details about its proposal but CNN reported on Wednesday that the Biden administration offered to swap convicted Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout for the two Americans.

Bout is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence and the Justice Department has voiced opposition to the potential exchange, according to CNN.

CNN reported on Friday that the Russians have demanded the US include a former colonel of Russia’s spy agency FSB in any potential swap for Griner and Whelan.

The request to free convicted murderer Vadim Krasikov, in addition to Bout, was made earlier this month.

Krasikov was convicted by a German court in 2021 of murdering a former Chechen fighter in Berlin. He remains in prison in Germany.

The Biden administration “did not view it as a legitimate counter to the US’ offer,” the CNN report said.



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