Blinken is talking to the Russian Foreign Minister for the first time since the start of the war.

WASHINGTON. On Friday, Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken spoke with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and urged him to accept the offer to release Britney Greener and Paul N. Whelan, but did not report a breakthrough.

mr. Blinken told reporters at a press conference that he had spoken to his Russian counterpart on the phone, and it was their first conversation in weeks before Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine. He refused to say how, Mr. Lavrov replied.

“I urged Foreign Minister Lavrov to push this proposal forward,” he said. “I’m not going to characterize his reaction and I can’t give you an estimate of how, in my opinion, everything is more or less likely.”

AT his account During a call to the Russian Foreign Ministry, they said that, speaking about a possible exchange of citizens in places of deprivation of liberty, Lavrov proposed returning to the procedure of “quiet diplomacy”, without “speculative information campaigns.”

Mrs. Griner, a WNBA star who played in the off-season for the Russian team, appeared before a Russian court and was sentenced to 10 years in prison on drug charges. The 31-year-old athlete was detained at a Moscow airport about a week before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine after customs officials found hash oil in her luggage.

mr. Whelan, former head of Marine Corps and Corporate Security, was detained in 2018 in a Moscow hotel where he stayed at a friend’s wedding. In 2020, a Russian court sentenced him to 16 years in prison for espionage, a charge he and his family denied.

The State Department classified both Mr. Whelan and Ms. Griner as “wrongfully detained”.

According to a person briefed on the matter, last month the Biden administration offered to trade Russian arms dealer Victor Bowt, who is currently serving a 25-year sentence in federal prison in the United States, for Ms. Griner and Mr. Whelan.

mr. Blinken also said he pressured Mr. Blinken. Lavrov to comply with a recent Russian agreement to allow Ukrainian grain to pass through Black Sea ports and told him that the world would never accept further Russian annexation of Ukrainian territory.

He warned Mr. Lavrov against “bogus referendums” designed to “falsely demonstrate that people in these parts of Ukraine are somehow striving to become part of Russia.”

Such actions, Mr. Blinken said, “if Russia carries out this plan, it will lead to significant additional costs for Russia.”

mr. Lavrov, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry, said that the situation with grain “is complicated by US sanctions.” He also stated that the Russian forces “strictly comply with the norms of international law.”

He added that Russia’s goals in Ukraine “will be fully achieved.”