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Human Rights

U.S. designates WSJ journalist Evan Gershkovich as wrongfully detained by Russia  

The designation will allow the Biden administration to explore ways to secure Gershkovich’s release, including a prisoner swap

Wall Street Journal
Wall Street Journal | Shutterstock

April 11, 2023 8:26am

Updated: April 11, 2023 8:26am

The U.S. State Department on Monday declared that Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was wrongfully detained by Russia. 

“Today, Secretary Blinken made a determination that Evan Gershkovich is wrongfully detained by Russia,” State Department principal deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said in a statement.

Gershkovich, 31, was detained on March 29 in the city of Yekaterinburg and was formally charged with espionage on Friday. The journalist and the Wall Street Journal deny the charges. He has not yet been granted consular access by Russia. 

The designation signals that the U.S. government believes that the charges against him are unfounded. It will also allow the Biden administration to explore ways to secure Gershkovich’s release, including a prisoner swap. 

“This distinction will unlock additional resources and attention at the highest levels of the US government in securing his release,” Emma Tucker, the Wall Street Journal’s editor-in-chief, said in a statement following the announcement.

His case will now be handled by the State Department’s Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, which deals with securing the release of U.S. citizens held hostage abroad. 

“Journalism is not a crime. We condemn the Kremlin’s continued repression of independent voices in Russia and its ongoing war against the truth,” Patel said. 

Recently, the Biden administration secured the release of two Americans that had been wrongfully detained by the Kremlin: Trevor Reed and Brittney Griner. Paul Wheelan, who has been held in Russia for more than four years, is another American who has been declared wrongfully detained by the U.S. government.

“[The] U.S. government will provide all appropriate support to Mr. Gershkovich and his family,” Patel added.

“We call for the Russian Federation to immediately release Mr. Gershkovich,” he continued. “We also call on Russia to release wrongfully detained U.S. citizen Paul Whelan.”

The Wall Street Journal on Monday also said that they “are doing everything in our power to support Evan and his family and will continue working with the State Department and other relevant U.S. officials to push for his release.”