Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke by phone to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday urging Russia to accept a deal to win the release of American detainees 31 old Brittney Griner, two-time Olympic gold medalist , and Paul Whelan. U.S. officials have in recent days publicized their efforts to get back Griner, a WNBA star, and Whelan, a corporate security executive. Blinken did not provide details of Lavrov’s response to what he had previously called a “substantial proposal”. People familiar with the offer say the U.S. wants to swap Whelan and Griner for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
In its statement afterward, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Lavrov “strongly suggested” to Blinken “returning to a professional dialogue in the mode of quiet diplomacy” on any efforts at American detainees’ release. Russia has for years expressed interest in the release of Bout. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2012.