Antony Blinken calls on Russia to end ‘unacceptable’ detention of US reporter

State Department is asking to visit WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovich in detention

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Monday 03 April 2023 07:30 BST
Russia arrests US journalist Evan Gershkovich on espionage allegations

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken demanded an end to the “unacceptable” detention of American Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich in call on Sunday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Mr Gershkovich, 31, was taken into custody on espionage allegations by the Russian Federal Security Service on Wednesday while on assignment outside of Moscow.

“Secretary Blinken conveyed the United States’ grave concern over Russia’s unacceptable detention of a US citizen journalist,” the State Department said in a statement to the Journal. “Secretary Blinken further urged the Kremlin to immediately release wrongfully detained US citizen Paul Whelan. The Secretary and Foreign Minister Lavrov also discussed the importance of creating an environment that permits diplomatic missions to carry out their work.”

The State Department is requesting to perform a consular visit with the detained journalist.

The Journal has denied that the 31-year-old was a spy of any kind.

“The Wall Street Journal demands the immediate release of our colleague, Evan Gershkovich, a distinguished journalist who was arrested while reporting in Russia,” the Journal wrote in a statement. “We know what’s going on in the world because of the fearless reporting of journalists like Evan. Evan’s case is a vicious affront to a free press, and should spur outrage in all free people and governments throughout the world. No reporter should ever be detained for simply doing their job.”

Observers view the detention of Mr Gershkovich, the first Russian arrest of an American journalist since 1986, as a provocation designed to stifle critical reporting about Russia.

“It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Gershkovich’s arrest marks Russian authorities’ desire to keep foreign journalists away and stop their reporting on topics that are critical of the government or that unmask its abuses,” Rachel Denber of Human Rights Watch wrote.

The Wall Street Journal reporter will be held in pretrial detention until 29 May.

WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was in Russian detention on drug charges for much of 2022 before a prisoner swap, also expressed her concern.

“Every American who is taken is ours to fight for and every American returned is a win for us all,” she said in a statement on Saturday.

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