WSJ journalist Evan Gershkovich

President Biden vows to secure release of Evan Gershkovich in Russia

As Wall Street Journal correspondent Evan Gershkovich approaches his 32nd birthday on Thursday while incarcerated in Moscow, his family has received assurance from President Joe Biden that the White House is committed to securing his return to the United States from Russia, according to Gershkovich’s sister, Danielle.

President’s promise

During an interview on Newsmax, Danielle Gershkovich revealed that the president “personally promised our family that he’s going to get Evan home.” She emphasized the family’s longing for Evan to return to his beloved work in journalism and the fact that their mission to bring him home is still ongoing.

Evan Gershkovich made headlines in late March when he became the first American journalist detained in Russia on espionage charges since the end of the Cold War. His arrest occurred at the conclusion of a work trip to Ekaterinburg. The Russian FSB security service has accused him of gathering state secrets related to the country’s military-industrial complex, although they have not provided any evidence to support their claim.

Both Gershkovich and The Wall Street Journal have vehemently denied these allegations, asserting that he was on a legitimate assignment and should be afforded the highest protections of press freedom.

Paul Beckett, his editor, condemned Russia’s actions, claiming they had taken Gershkovich hostage as a means to exert leverage over the US government. Beckett expressed his dismay at hearing such news about a colleague and called for Gershkovich’s release during his appearance on Newsmax.

20-year imprisonment

A Moscow court has ordered Gershkovich to remain in pre-trial detention until November 30, and he faces a possible 20-year prison sentence if convicted.

In a separate interview on MSNBC, Danielle Gershkovich spoke about her efforts to emotionally support her brother during his captivity in Moscow’s infamous Lefortovo prison. She mentioned their weekly correspondence and how she tries to make him smile with jokes and sibling banter.

The US Ambassador to Russia, Lynne Tracy, visited Gershkovich in Lefortovo on October 17, reporting that he remained in good spirits despite the challenging circumstances. Tracy’s embassy continues to advocate for his immediate release.

Prisoner swaps

During the MSNBC interview, Beckett hinted at discussions of a potential prisoner swap between the US and Russia. However, he urged for more proactive measures to secure Gershkovich’s release, emphasizing the need for the US government to engage with Russia and facilitate his return to both his family and the newsroom.

Paul Whelan, another high-profile American detainee in Russia, has been held for nearly five years on espionage charges that the US regards as baseless. In a recent CNN interview, Whelan criticized the US for not including him in recent prisoner swaps with Russia, suggesting that he had been “painted a target” on his back as a result.

These swaps, which took place between the White House and the Kremlin last year, led to the return of individuals like basketball star Brittney Griner and marine veteran Trevor Reed to the US in exchange for Russian nationals Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko, the former a arms dealer and the latter a drug trafficker.

Danielle Gershkovich remains hopeful for an outcome similar to the reunions of Griner and Reed with their loved ones, stating,

“Every day that he’s imprisoned is a day too long.”

Ultimately, expressing the family’s desire for Evan to be spending his birthday at home.