CIA Director Meets With Russian Intelligence Chief To Discuss ‘Unjustly Detained’ Americans

CIA director Bill Burns was set to meet with his Russian counterpart Monday in Turkey to discuss nuclear security concerns as well as “unjustly detained U.S. citizens,” a National Security Council spokesperson told CNN.

The meeting is slated to take place in Ankara, Turkey, on the fringes of Russia’s war in Ukraine that has ignited concerns among Western policymakers about potential nuclear use, and after a Russian court sentenced U.S. citizen Brittney Griner to nine years in prison, CNN reported. The spokesperson emphasized to CNN that negotiations are not on the table, but that the US hopes the meeting will foster open lines of communication as U.S.-Russia relations continue to sour.

“[Burns] is not discussing settlement of the war in Ukraine,” the spokesperson told CNN. “He is conveying a message on the consequences of the use of nuclear weapons by Russia, and the risks of escalation to strategic stability. He will also raise the cases of unjustly detained U.S. citizens.” (RELATED: Ukraine’s Zelenskyy Says He’s Open To Negotiations With Russia)

Russia took WNBA player Griner into custody after discovering illegal cannabis in her luggage at the airport in Moscow, and also holds former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan in prison on spying charges. Russian officials sentenced Griner and transferred her to a penal colony earlier in November following months of apparently fruitless attempts at securing Griner’s release, including a reported trade for a notorious Russian arms dealer detained in the U.S.

WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 27: Cannabis advocates deploy green smoke and a fake inflatable joint outside the Russian Embassy to demand the release of American basketball star Brittney Griner, who has been imprisoned in Russia since February for cannabis possession, October 27, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

“We have been very open about the fact that we have channels to communicate with Russia on managing risk, especially nuclear risk and risks to strategic stability,” the spokesperson told CNN. “As part of this effort, Bill Burns is in Ankara today to meet with his Russian intelligence counterpart.”

Senior U.S. officials including National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan have in recent weeks spoken with Russian officials, warning the Kremlin against using a nuclear weapon in Ukraine, according to CNN. Putin issued a thinly veiled threat in September to use a nuclear weapon in Ukraine, but later walked back his statement, saying “we see no need for” nuclear weapons to achieve Russia’s war aims.

In October, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu, the first conversation the two have had since May, amid leaked intelligence Russian officials discussed the particulars behind the potential deployment of a tactical nuclear weapon, CNN reported.

The U.S. provided advance notice to Ukraine of the meeting between Burns and Russian intelligence chief Sergey Naryshkin, CNN reported.

“We firmly stick to our fundamental principle: nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine,” the spokesperson said, meaning the U.S. has committed not to make any deals with Russia without Ukraine’s involvement and consent.

The U.S. urged Kyiv to maintain a public appearance of openness to negotiating with Russia, even while acknowledging Russian leaders will not agree to withdrawal from occupied areas of Ukraine, The Washington Post reported.

The CIA did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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