US and Russian spy chiefs meet on Moscow nuclear threat

US and Russian spy chiefs meet on Moscow nuclear threat


The US and Russian spy chiefs held a rare face-to-face meeting in Ankara on Monday about Moscow’s nuclear threats in Ukraine and Americans being held captive by the Kremlin, the White House said.

In what appears to be the highest-level direct talks between officials from the two countries since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Central Intelligence Agency director William Burns met with Sergei Naryshkin, head of Russia’s foreign intelligence agency SVR.

Turkish President’s spokesman Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed the meeting, and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was “an initiative from the American side,” according to Russian media.

Peskow did not want to give details of the content.

But the White House said Burns, Washington’s former ambassador to Moscow, warned of Russia’s threat to use tactical nuclear weapons in the Ukraine war.

The CIA chief’s message concerned “the consequences of Russia’s use of nuclear weapons and the risks of escalation for strategic stability,” according to a White House statement.

The United States has for months warned of Russian threats to use tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine if its own territorial integrity would be threatened.

On September 21, Putin said Western nations were trying to “destroy” his country and threatened to use nuclear weapons, which was widely seen as a threat.

“If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people. This is not a bluff,” Putin said.

– ‘Unjustly’ Imprisoned Americans –

The White House National Security Council statement on Monday stressed that Burns was not in Ankara to discuss ways of ending the war in Ukraine, where Russian forces have been repulsed but still great in nine months of grueling conflict occupy parts of the territory.

“He’s not negotiating. He is not discussing the settlement of the war in Ukraine,” the statement said.

“We firmly adhere to our fundamental principle: Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine,” it said.

The statement said the two officials would also discuss the issue of US citizens being “wrongly” detained in Russia.

Russia has jailed US basketball star Brittney Griner, who was arrested in Moscow last year on drug charges, and Paul Whelan, an auto parts company official convicted of espionage after his arrest in 2018.

Washington has reportedly offered a prisoner swap, with speculation it is willing to swap jailed Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for the Americans.

Last week, US President Joe Biden expressed hope that his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin would negotiate “more seriously” to free Griner, who was sent to a penal colony for nine years after her appeal in Russian courts failed.

“My hope is that now that the election is over, Mr. Putin will be able to discuss with us and be willing to talk more seriously about the prisoner swap,” Biden said.

According to the Turkish news agency Anadolu, the two spy bosses met as guests of the Turkish secret service.

Erdogan has made his country a key broker for talks between the two sides, particularly over the issue of allowing key grain exports from Ukraine, which were blocked by the Russian Navy early in the war.

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