US ambassador to Russia visits jailed WSJ reporter Gershkovich

Evan Gershkovich is in ‘good health and remains strong’, US State Department says, reiterating call for his release.

Detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich stands in a glass enclosure in a Moscow courtroom
Russia arrested Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich in late March on spying allegations that he denies [File: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP Photo]

The United States ambassador to Russia has visited jailed Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich, the US State Department confirmed, in only the second such meeting since Gershkovich was detained in March on espionage charges.

Ambassador Lynne Tracy met with Gershkovich at Lefortovo Prison in the Russian capital, Moscow, a State Department spokesperson said on Monday. Tracy last visited the detained journalist on April 17.

“Ambassador Tracy reports that Mr Gershkovich is in good health and remains strong, despite his circumstances,” the spokesperson said. “We expect Russian authorities to provide continued consular access.”

Russia arrested Gershkovich in late March in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg, accusing him of trying to obtain classified information about a Russian arms factory. Gershkovich’s legal team and his supporters have dismissed the charges as baseless.

“Evan is a member of the free press who right up until he was arrested was engaged in newsgathering,” The Wall Street Journal previously said. “Any suggestions otherwise are false.”

In April, the US State Department formally designated Gershkovich as “wrongfully detained” and called on Russia to release him immediately.

But on June 22, a Russian judge rejected an application for Gershkovich, 31, to be released from prison while awaiting trial. After that decision, Tracy – the US ambassador – accused Moscow of conducting “hostage diplomacy”.

US officials have been calling on Russia to grant consular access to Gershkovich since his arrest, accusing the Russian authorities of violating international law by not allowing American diplomats to contact him.

“This week marks 100 days that press freedom supporters & colleagues have pushed for the release of [Wall Street Journal] reporter Evan Gershkovich, unjustly imprisoned in Russia,” the Committee to Protect Journalists advocacy group tweeted on Monday.

“Let’s stand together on this chilling milestone and demand Evan’s immediate release.”

Gershkovich’s detention is unfolding as tensions between Washington and Moscow continue to mount amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Advocates say the journalist’s arrest is part of Russia’s broader crackdown on media outlets as it pushes forward with the invasion of its neighbour.

But Russian authorities say Gershkovich was “caught red-handed and violated the laws of the Russian Federation”. They have not presented evidence to back up their allegations.

On Monday, the US State Department again called for the immediate release of Gershkovich and Paul Whelan, a former US Marine serving a 16-year sentence in a Russian penal colony on espionage charges.

The department also described Whelan, who was detained in Moscow in 2018, as “wrongfully detained”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies