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US and Russian intelligence chiefs meet in Turkey

US and Russian intelligence chiefs meet in Turkey

To discuss Moscow’s nuclear threat in Ukraine and American prisoners held “unjustly” by Russia, the heads of the US and Russian intelligence services have personally met.

CIA Director William Burns and his Russian colleague Sergei Naryshkin spoke on Monday in the Turkish city of Ankara.

The negotiations were “an initiative of the American side,” according to the Kremlin.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it is the highest-level public meeting between authorities.

The White House claimed that Mr. Burns, who knows Russian and served as the US ambassador to Russia from 2005 to 2008, was not negotiating the conclusion of the war.

According to a statement from the White House, his message focused on “the implications of Russia using nuclear weapons” and the danger of “escalation to strategic stability.”

The US has frequently cautioned Moscow against using tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine in recent months amid indications from the Kremlin that it may be ready to do so.

Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, charged in September that the West wanted to destroy his country and vowed to defend it with “all available means,” which some interpreted as a threat to deploy nuclear weapons.

US officials vowed to treat the warnings seriously.

A spokeswoman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has emerged as a key middleman between Russia and Western nations since February’s invasion, confirmed the meeting between Mr. Burns and Mr. Naryshkin, the head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR).

Washington would “hold firmly to our core principle: nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine,” according to the White House statement, which emphasized that Mr. Burns was not “conducting negotiations of any kind.”

Prior to the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, US President Joe Biden had a meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

According to a White House statement, the duo “underscored their opposition to the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine.” According to a statement from the Chinese foreign ministry, Mr. Xi informed Mr. Biden that using nuclear weapons is prohibited and that fighting nuclear wars is impossible.

The officials also discussed the problem of US individuals held “unjustly” in Russia, according to the White House statement on the US-Russia meeting.

Brittney Griner, a great basketball player for the United States, was given a nine-year prison term in August for smuggling and having cannabis oil. She was transferred to a prison camp last week.

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Although it is illegal to use cannabis in Russia, Moscow has been charged with using Ms. Griner “as a political pawn.”

To obtain Ms. Griner’s release as well as that of former marine Paul Whelan, whom Moscow accuses of spying, the Biden administration suggested a prisoner swap with Russia in late July.

Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the US, will meet with White House representatives on Tuesday to talk about the treatment of Russians in US jails, according to the Russian embassy.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the US remained “unwavering” in its efforts to release her and other detained Americans after her transfer to the penal colony.

One of the responsibilities of intelligence chiefs is to conduct covert interactions and back-channel conversations. Mr. Burns has been particularly crucial in this regard with Russia; he was sent there months before Russia invaded the country to warn of the inevitable repercussions.

A CIA official claimed that they never publicize the director’s engagements abroad. Regardless, the meeting in Ankara comes at a crucial juncture in the conflict, following the loss of Kherson and the uncertainty surrounding Moscow’s response.

Although Mr. Naryshkin is not thought to have the same influence in Moscow as Mr. Burns does in Washington—he is not a member of Mr. Putin’s inner circle and was notably humiliated by the Russian president at a meeting on the eve of the invasion in February—US leaders will hope that a face-to-face meeting will give the CIA director some insight into the thinking in Moscow.

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