The US has made a “substantial offer” to bring two American detainees home from Russia, its top diplomat has said.
Next week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he would speak with Russia’s foreign minister about the matter.
According to reports in US media, Moscow is reportedly interested in Brittney Griner, a basketball player, for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who has been convicted.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov confirmed talks were ongoing but insisted no agreement had been reached.
Mr. Peskov told the BBC’s Moscow correspondent Steve Rosenberg that he had been surprised to hear of the reports and said he would not comment until “after an agreement has been carried out”.
In spite of Mr. Blinken’s assertions that he will speak with Mr. Lavrov, a representative of the Russian foreign ministry informed the state-run Tass news agency that they were not aware of any scheduled calls.
Since the start of the Ukrainian conflict, Mr. Blinken and Sergei Lavrov have not spoken.
Both the White House and the Department of State declined on Wednesday to disclose details of the proposed deal.
Bout’s lawyer told Russia’s Ria Novosti news site that he couldn’t comment on claims of a possible exchange with his client, but that “this could change soon.”
Bout’s wife, Alla, told Ria Novosti that neither she nor her husband was aware of such preparations.
The arms trader, called the Merchant of Death, is currently serving a 25-year jail sentence in the United States on allegations of attempting to sell weapons to a Colombian rebel organization with the intent of killing Americans. Lord of War, a 2005 film starring Nicolas Cage, is partially based on his life.
Bout’s wife, Alla, told Ria Novosti neither she nor her husband knew anything about plans for such a prisoner trade.
Mr. Kirby went on to say that a White House official had talked with the Whelan and Griner families prior to Mr. Blinken’s announcement and that they would speak again in the following 48 hours.
The agreement would be the first tangible measure announced by the US government in relation to Ms. Griner’s release.
The 31-year-old has been detained since February after Moscow airport officials discovered cannabis oil in her luggage as she returned to the United States after playing in Russia.
Ms. Griner testified at her drug possession trial on Wednesday that officials forced her to sign documents but “no one explained anything to me.”