The US ambassador to Russia met with Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich in Moscow on Monday as American officials continue to seek his release months after he was detained.
Ambassador Lynne Tracy visited Gershkovich at the notorious Lefortovo Prison after the US spent weeks asking for a meeting, the Journal reported. Gershkovich, a 31-year-old US citizen, was detained while on a reporting trip in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg on March 29 on a charge of espionage. The Journal and US officials have flatly rejected those claims, saying the reporter has been wrongfully detained.
It’s only the second time the ambassador has been able to meet with him. The visit comes shortly after a Moscow court ruled last month that Gershkovich must remain in jail on the charge, despite an appeal from his lawyers. That decision stands until at least August 30.
“Ambassador Tracy reports that Mr Gershkovich is in good health and remains strong, despite his circumstances,” a State Department spokesperson told the Journal on Monday. “US Embassy officials will continue to provide all appropriate support to Mr Gershkovich and his family, and we expect Russian authorities to provide continued consular access.”
Gershkovich, who has worked at the Journal’s Moscow bureau since January 2022, is the first American journalist to be arrested on an espionage charge in Russia since the Cold War. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters last week that the Biden administration has pushed for his release “virtually every day” and has been looking for different ways to bring him home along with other detainees, including Paul Whelan. Whelan has been held in Russia since 2020 and was sentenced to 16 years in prison on an espionage charge.
“Both men deserve to go home to their families now,” the State Department said in its statement Monday.
The Journal noted that it could be months before the case is brought to trial, and even then, espionage cases are often carried out in secret. A conviction can carry a decades-long sentence, and defendants are rarely acquitted in court, the newspaper reported.