15 Dec 2023 11:58

U.S. calls on Russia to seriously consider its proposals on releasing Gershkovich, Whelan - Dept of State

WASHINGTON. Dec 14 (Interfax) - Washington urges Moscow to seriously consider its proposals on releasing U.S. citizens Evan Gershkovich and Paul Whelan and to conduct negotiations in good faith, U.S. Department of State spokesman Matthew Miller said.

"If Vladimir Putin is serious about this, all he has to do is look at the proposals that we have made to secure their release, which were significant proposals that were made in good faith and I think show the willingness and the determination of the United States to bring both Paul and Evan home," Miller said at a press briefing.

He thus responded to a journalist's question about whether Putin's reply regarding Moscow's readiness to agree on a prisoner swap was a positive sign.

"We very much want a deal. [...] So we would welcome them negotiating in good faith. We would welcome them engaging seriously with us to obtain the release of Evan Gershkovich and Paul Whelan. But so far, we have seen them refuse to take us up on our proposals, and we hope that they will change the way they've handled this going forward," Miller said.

For his part, John Kirby, coordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council in the White House, confirmed the active dialogue between Washington and Moscow on the return of U.S. citizens from Russia, as Putin said on Thursday.

"Well, he's right that we continue to talk to Moscow about getting Evan and Paul home [...] those discussions are ongoing, and they're ongoing actively," Kirby said.

Putin said on Thursday that Russia was not refusing to send home Gershkovich, a reporter of the Wall Street Journal's Moscow bureau charged with spying, and Whelan, convicted in Russia of espionage.

"It's not that we refuse his return, we are not refusing. We want to come to terms, yet such agreements should be mutually acceptable and satisfy both sides. We have such contacts with American partners, this kind of dialogue is ongoing. It is not easy, but, on the whole, we speak a language understandable to each other," Putin said at the live end-of-year news press conference.

He said he hoped the sides would find a solution.

"I think that the U.S. side should hear us and make relevant decisions to satisfy the Russian side. However, these decisions should definitely rest upon humanitarian considerations," Putin said.