Pentagon chief says Russia's 'relentless shelling' of Ukraine 'harkens back to the horrors of WWI'
"Ukraine needs the firepower and the ammunition to withstand this barrage and to strike back at the Russian weapons launching these attacks," Austin said."Russia is keeping up its relentless shelling, and that's a cruel tactic that harkens back to the horrors of World War I," Austin said in a press conference following the fourth meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, which brings together dozens of countries to hold discussions on Ukraine's defense needs.
MOSCOW (AP) — Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday that he's open to a call with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to discuss a possible prisoner swap involving American basketball star Brittney Griner.
Blinken said Wednesday that Washington had offered Russia a deal that would bring home Griner and another jailed American, Paul Whelan. A person familiar with the matter said the U.S. government proposed trading convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for Whelan and Griner.
Lavrov visits Cairo as Russia attempts to break diplomatic isolation
Ahead of his visit to Egypt, Russia's top diplomat Sergey Lavrov expressed Moscow's "deep respect" to African states who refuse to sanction his country over Ukraine.Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry at the outset of his wider Africa tour on Sunday. The trip aims to ease Russia's diplomatic isolation amid the war on Ukraine. Lavrov was also meeting the secretary general of the Arab League and addressing members of the organization during his one-day trip to Cairo.
Speaking on a visit to Uzbekistan, Lavrov said his ministry had received an official U.S. request for a call after Blinken made the statement. Russia's top diplomat said he would be ready once he returns to Moscow and that the timing of the call was being worked out.
Lavrov said he was open to discussing the prisoner exchange, even though the Foreign Ministry hasn't been involved in previous discussions on the issue.
Russia is planning to use Africa to its benefit - analysis
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“I will listen to what he has to say,” Lavrov added.
Asked Thursday about the U.S. offer, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov replied that prisoner swaps were typically negotiated discreetly behind the scenes.
“We know that such issues are discussed without any such release of information,” Peskov told reporters during a conference call. “Normally, the public learns about it when the agreements are already implemented.”
Blinken’s comments marked the first time the U.S. government publicly revealed any concrete action it has taken to secure Griner’s release. The two-time Olympic gold medalist and player for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury was arrested at a Moscow airport in mid-February when inspectors found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage.
Video: Brother of ex-Marine imprisoned in Russia speaks out on proposed prisoner swap (ABC News)
'New Cold War': Russia and West vie for influence in Africa
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Russian, French and American leaders are crisscrossing Africa to win support for their positions on the war in Ukraine, waging what some say is the most intense competition for influence on the continent since the Cold War. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and French President Emanuel Macron are each visiting several African countries this week. Samantha Power, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, went to Kenya and Somalia last week. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Linda Thomas-Greenfield, will go to Ghana and Uganda next week.
Griner’s arrest came at a time of heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington ahead of Russia sending troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24. Griner’s five months of detention have raised strong criticism among teammates and supporters in the United States.
Her trial on drug charges started in a court outside Moscow this month, and she testified Wednesday that she didn’t know how the cartridges ended up in her bag but that she had a doctor’s recommendation to use cannabis to treat career-related pain.
The 31-year-old has pleaded guilty but said she had no criminal intent in bringing the cartridges to Russia and packed in haste for her return to play in a Russian basketball league during the WNBA’s offseason. She faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of transporting drugs.
The Biden administration has faced political pressure to free Griner and other Americans whom the U.S. has declared to be “wrongfully detained” — a designation sharply rejected by Russian officials.
Whelan, a corporate security executive from Michigan, was sentenced to 16 years in prison on espionage charges in 2020. He and his family have vigorously asserted his innocence. The U.S. government has denounced the charges as false.
Russia has for years expressed interest in the release of Bout, a Russian arms dealer once labeled the “Merchant of Death.” He was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2012 on charges that he schemed to illegally sell millions of dollars in weapons.
Matthew Lee and Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.
Follow AP's coverage of Griner's case at https://apnews.com/hub/brittney-griner
Offer made to Russia for release of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, U.S. says .
The Biden administration says it's offered a deal to Russia aimed at bringing home WNBA star Brittney Griner and another jailed American, Paul Whelan.The statement marked the first time the U.S. government has publicly revealed any concrete action it has taken to secure the release of Griner, who was arrested on drug-related charges at a Moscow airport in February and testified Wednesday at her trial.