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US-Russia Prisoner Swap Talks Irregular: US Secretary Of State Antony Blinken

The United States and Russia are engaged in a dialogue on prisoner swap, but the talks are irregular, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Fox News.

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In an interview with Fox News, United States (US) Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that discussions between the United States and Russia regarding a prisoner exchange were underway but were not occurring on a regular basis. "The dialogue is irregular. We have been in contact. We remain in contact through our embassy (in Russia)," he said in response to a corresponding question.

According to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, a special communication channel was established as per the agreement between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his American counterpart Joe Biden during their meeting in Geneva in June 2021. The channel's purpose is to discuss the status of detained Russian citizens in the US and detained American citizens in Russia.

"I won't open a big secret if I tell you that this channel was not intended to involve journalists and was not intended to publicly expose certain situations in the interests of putting pressure on the ongoing serious professional negotiations," the top Russian diplomat told reporters.

In April, the Russian Ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov, stated that approximately 100 Russians are presently being held in detention in the United States.

Focus on Whelan & Gershkovich

Recently, the US authorities have been actively pursuing a prisoner exchange involving Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich, who is currently in Russian custody, and Paul Whelan, who was previously convicted of espionage in Russia.

According to the Center for Public Relations of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), Gershkovich, "acting as an agent for the American side, collected top-secret data about the activity of an enterprise of the Russian military-industrial complex." In this connection, the journalist was detained in Yekaterinburg at the end of March; criminal proceedings were initiated against him under Article 276 of the Russian Criminal Code (Espionage). 

Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for the Kremlin, has stated that Evan Gershkovich was apprehended while committing an offense. The Lefortovo court in Moscow has authorised his detention until May 29.

Paul Whelan, who holds citizenship in the United States, Canada, Ireland, and the UK, was taken into custody by Russian FSB officers on December 28, 2018, while allegedly conducting a spy operation in a room at the Metropol Hotel in Moscow.

A criminal case was opened against him under Article 276 of the Russian Criminal Code. The Moscow City Court ultimately found Whelan guilty and sentenced him to 16 years in a strict regime penal colony.

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