Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Thursday for the first time in person since before Russia invaded Ukraine.
The roughly 10-minute meeting, the first face-to-face confab between the officials since January 2022, a month before Russia launched its attack, took place at the international conference in New Delhi.
Blinken pressed Lavrov on three points — reverse President Vladimir Putin’s decision to suspend participation in the New START pact between the world’s two largest nuclear powers, and release Paul Whelan, a former US Marine who has been detained in Russia since 2018.
He also reaffirmed to Lavrov that Washington will back Ukraine as long as it takes, according to reports, citing a senior US official.
Blinken and Lavrov last spoke on the phone in July 2022 during the negotiations to release WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was being held by Russia since that February after being arrested at a Moscow airport for carrying cannabis oil in her suitcase.
Russia freed Griner last December in a prisoner swap for Viktor Bout, the notorious international arms dealer known as the “Merchant of Death.”
Whelan, who was arrested on a trumped-up espionage charge, continues to be held in Russia.
Putin announced in a rambling speech in February that he would suspend Moscow’s participation in the New START agreement that limits the nuclear arsenals of the two countries, and suggested that Russia would begin testing nuclear weapons.
The already tense relations between Washington and Moscow over the Ukraine invasion have gotten more complicated in recent weeks as China has made moves to strengthen its relationship with Russia.
Beijing last month unveiled a 12-point plan to end the war, called for an end to Western sanctions against Russia, while top US officials have said China is considering providing military assistance to Russia.
Last week, Wang Yi, China’s top diplomat, met with Putin and Lavrov in Moscow.
With Post wires
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