The president of United States, Joe Bidenurged on Friday to Russia to release Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovichafter the country’s security service arrested him on charges of espionageaccusations that the newspaper denies.
“let him go”Biden told reporters at the White House on Friday morning when asked about his message to Russia over Gershkovich’s arrest.
The Russian Federal Security Service accuses the American journalist of trying to obtain confidential information. is the first time an American journalist has been detained on espionage charges since the Cold War. The newspaper has said it “vehemently denies” the charges.
Known by its Russian acronym FSB, the service is the top internal security agency and the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB. The FSB alleged that Gershkovich “was acting under the orders of the United States to collect information about the activities of one of the companies of the Russian military-industrial complex which constitutes a state secret.
The Biden administration said Thursday that it was working to ensure that Gershkovich has consular access. Asked Friday morning if he would expel Russian diplomats or journalists in the United States, Biden replied: “That’s not the plan right now.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierredescribed as “unacceptable” the selection of US citizens in Russia and assured that the US government condemns the arrest of Gershkovich “in the strongest terms”.
The Biden administration has also warned US citizens not to travel to Russia and for Americans currently residing in the country to leave immediately.
Evan Gershkovich, 31, was arrested in Yekaterinburgthe fourth largest city in Russia, about 1,670 kilometers east of Moscow.
The arrest occurred in a context of tension between Moscow and Washington over the war in Ukraine and at a time when the Kremlin has intensified the persecution of opposition activists, independent journalists and civil society groups.
Such a sweeping government crackdown campaign had not been seen since the Soviet era. Activists say the campaign often involves criminalizing the profession of journalism and the activities of Russian anti-war fighters.
Gershkovich is the first American journalist to be arrested on espionage charges in Russia since 1986, when Nicholas Daniloff, Moscow correspondent for US News and World Report, was detained by the KGB. Daniloff was released without charge 20 days later in an exchange for an employee of the Soviet delegation to the United Nations, who had been arrested by the FBI, also on espionage charges.
While other Americans detained earlier have been released through prisoner swaps, a senior Russian official said it was too soon to talk about any such deal.
Gershkovich, who covers Russia, Ukraine and other former Soviet nations as a correspondent for The Wall Street Journal’s Moscow bureau, could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison if convicted of espionage. Prominent lawyers noted that previous spying investigations lasted from a year to 18 months, during which time he might have little contact with the outside world.
(With information from AP)
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