President Joe Biden told President Vladimir Putin to release Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reporter Evan Gershkovich, who is detained in Russia for allegedly spying for the United States. In a terse “Let him go” command, Biden asked Russia to release Gershkovich immediately and unconditionally to his family and work.
Gershkovich was picked up by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) in Yekaterinburg and ordered to remain in custody till May 29. He was accused of investigating and obtaining secret information on the “activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex,” an accusation the WSJ has vehemently denied.
“The Wall Street Journal vehemently denies the allegations from the FSB and seeks the immediate release of our trusted and dedicated reporter, Evan Gershkovich,” WSJ’s Senior Communications Manager Caitlyn Reuss stated. “We stand in solidarity with Evan and his family.”
Gershkovich used to work for the New York Times and AFP before joining the WSJ. He also worked for Moscow Times. He remains in Russian custody for three days now, and the National Press Club has voiced out for his immediate release.
“We consider this an unjust detention and call on the State Department to designate his detention in that manner at once,” National Press Club president Eileen O’Reilly and National Press Club Journalism Institute president Gil Klein said in a joint statement. “Gershkovich is a journalist. He should be released immediately and unharmed and allowed to return to his important work.”
In an opinion piece, The Washington Post calls the detention of Gershkovich a “hostage-taking by the Kremlin.” The newspaper stated that “President Vladimir Putin is engaging in state-sponsored barbarism” and warned him to release the journalist immediately.
Before the arrest of Gershkovich, the last Russian-American to be detained by Russia was US News and World Report correspondent Nicholas Daniloff in 1986. This means that Gershkovich is the first American to be detained by Russia since the end of the Cold War for espionage. Daniloff spent 20 days in detention before his release and swap for a Russian held by the FBI.
In the words of The Post, “Gershkovich is not a pawn to be traded. Journalism is not a crime. He should be released immediately.” It should be noted that when Russia detained American basketball star Brittney Griner early this year, he was released after being traded for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. Up till now, anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny and opinion writer Vladimir Kara-Murza remain in Russian detention for speaking out against the Putin government.