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Lavrov ready to listen to Blinken’s offers on exchange of prisoners, grain export

The Russian foreign minister pointed out that Moscow has asked Washington to specify the topic the US side would like to discuss, but has not received a response yet

TASHKENT, July 29. /TASS/. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is ready to listen to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's proposals on exchange of prisoners and on export of grain, Lavrov said Friday.

Lavrov pointed out that Moscow has asked Washington to specify the topic the US side would like to discuss, but has not received a response yet.

"But we see that they have already spoken about that in the media on this issue," the top diplomat said.

"If we talk about the exchange of prisoners, the people held in custody in Russia and the US, then we have already commented in the name of the Foreign Ministry, that this topic was discussed over a year ago by Presidents Putin and Biden during the meeting in Geneva in June 2021. During that meeting, they agreed to task competent people to work on these issues. And the Foreign Ministry is not among them. However, we will listen to what he [Blinken] has to say," Lavrov told reporters Friday. "As for the Ukrainian grain - it would probably also be interesting to hear, how they are going to implement the obligations they took upon themselves within the context of the UN Secretary General’s initiative."

The Russian Minister pointed out that it is the US sanctions exactly that prevent full implementation of the grain export contracts.

"The UN Secretary General undertook to eliminate these barriers, so we’ll see," he added.

"And as for Ukraine and the rest - I’ve heard Tony Blinken when he said that he won’t discuss Ukraine with me, because Ukraine must represent its own interests and the Americans have no right to work in their stead. But, I will remind you that, about a week ago, when I said in an interview that we have no prejudice against negotiations with Ukraine, US State Department spokesman Ned Price claimed immediately that Washington thinks it is not the time for Ukraine to hold talks with Russia right now. It’s Freudian, basically: it has immediately become apparent, who controls whom and how the Americans ‘do not force’ Ukraine to do one thing or another," Lavrov concluded.

Earlier CNN reported citing its sources that US President Joe Biden endorsed a plan providing for an exchange of Russian businessman Viktor Bout for US citizens Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, adding that a corresponding offer was sent to Russia in June. In turn, Blinken announced Wednesday that he intends to discuss the fate of the US citizens in a phone call with Lavrov he plans to have in the upcoming days.