Blinken calls for Russia to release two U.S. citizens at Geneva talks

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GENEVA, Jan 21 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday raised the cases of Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed, two U.S. citizens detained in Russia and repeated Washington's call for their release during talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Geneva.

The top diplomats of Russia and the United States met in the Swiss city amid soaring tensions over Ukraine, after talks between their deputies last week failed to achieve a breakthrough.

In opening remarks witnessed by reporters, Blinken told Lavrov that along Russia's military buildup near its border with Ukraine he would also discuss the two Americans' cases during the meeting.

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The two “were tourists in Russia, were arrested, were convicted without credible evidence,” Blinken said. "We again ask Russia to do the right thing and let them come home."

Russia convicted Whelan - who holds U.S., British, Canadian and Irish passports - of spying in June 2020 and sentenced him to 16 years in jail. He denied the charge and said he was set up in a sting operation.

Reed was sentenced to nine years in jail after being found guilty of endangering the lives of two policemen in Moscow while drunk on a visit in 2019. He denied the charges and the United States called his trial a "theater of the absurd."

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Reporting by Simon Lewis Editing by Tomasz Janowski

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