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HomeNewsPoliticsBiden, top lawmakers denounce Russia's yearlong detention of Evan Gershkovich

Biden, top lawmakers denounce Russia’s yearlong detention of Evan Gershkovich

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(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden, top lawmakers and administration officials are condemning Russia’s wrongful detention of journalist Evan Gershkovich and reiterating their commitment to bringing him home.

Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter, has now spent one year in Moscow’s Lefortovo Prison on espionage charges his newspaper and the U.S. government have denounced as false. Earlier this week, his pre-trial detention was extended for another three months.

Gershkovich’s family, in an interview with ABC News, expressed optimism and said they know the U.S. government is taking his case seriously.

President Biden reiterated that position in a statement Friday, in which he emphasized to all Americans abroad: “We are with you. And we will never stop working to bring you home.”

“As I have told Evan’s parents, I will never give up hope either. We will continue working every day to secure his release,” Biden said. “We will continue to denounce and impose costs for Russia’s appalling attempts to use Americans as bargaining chips. And we will continue to stand strong against all those who seek to attack the press or target journalists — the pillars of free society.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken similarly stressed in a statement Friday that “journalism is not a crime” as he criticized Russia for going after its critics.

“To date, Russia has provided no evidence of wrongdoing for a simple reason: Evan did nothing wrong,” Blinken said, adding, “In the year since Evan’s wrongful detention, Russia’s already restrictive media landscape has become more oppressive, with a continued assault against independent voices targeting any form of dissent.”

Blinken and Biden also called for the release of Paul Whelan, a businessman and former U.S. Marine who was convicted of espionage in 2020 and sentenced to 16 years in prison. Like Gershkovich, the U.S. government considers Whelan unjustly detained by the Russian government.

“Russia should end its practice of arbitrarily detaining individuals for political leverage and should immediately release Evan and Paul,” Blinken said.

In a rare joint statement, House Speaker Mike Johnson, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said they continue to condemn Gershkovich’s “baseless arrest, fabricated charges, and unjust imprisonment.”

“Forty-five years ago, Evan’s parents, Ella and Mikhail Gershkovich, found refuge in the United States after fleeing the Soviet Union,” they said. “Today, Putin is restoring Soviet-style control through repression at home and aggression abroad.”

In December, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said Russia rejected a “new and significant proposal” to secure the release of Gershkovich and Whelan.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, during an interview with former Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson, suggested he could be open to a prisoner swap involving Gershkovich.

“We repeat our call for the Russian government to release Evan, Paul Whelan, and others it has wrongfully detained without further delay,” the U.S. congressional leaders said Friday.

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