Biden has no plans to discuss exchange of detainees with Putin by phone — official

US President Joe Biden has no plans to initiate a phone call with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to discuss a possible exchange of detainees, a senior White House official has said.

White House Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council John Kirby was asked during a briefing on Thursday whether Biden planned to discuss the exchange of US citizens Paul Whelan (convicted for espionage) and Brittney Griner (convicted for drug trafficking) directly with his Russian counterpart.

"I don’t have any calls to announce or speak to with President Putin. The [US] president is comfortable that the proposal that we put forward is a serious one. And he urges the Russians to accept that proposal so we can get Brittney and Paul," he said.

The official added that the US leader "is in constant touch with all members of his team that are working on Brittney’s case." "He is staying focused on this," Kirby continued.

When asked whether any progress was made after the US administration decided to publish its proposal to Russia about the possible exchange, the official replied: "We felt it was important to make sure the American people knew, but as well as people around the world, how seriously we’re taking these two cases, and that is so seriously, in fact, that we had made a proposal that we believe the Russians ought to accept. And you will notice that the day after we did that, the Russians started talking, even publicly [on the issue]."

Earlier, Washington offered Moscow to exchange Whelan and Griner for Russian citizen Viktor Bout, imprisoned in the US for arms trade. The exchange became one of the points of discussion during the phone call between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Russian Foreign Ministry said after the call that Lavrov strongly suggested Blinken to return to "quiet diplomacy" on this issue.

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