Putin calls on America to ‘make an offer to us’ for the release of Evan Gershkovich adding he should not have ‘committed offences on Russian soil’ as Moscow court today upholds ruling to keep him jailed until Jan 30

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Written By Maya Cantina
  • During the first press conference since the Ukrainian invasion, Vladimir Putin indicated he was open to a deal involving a prisoner swap with the US 

Russian President Vladimir Putin indicated for the first time in public that he would be willing to do a deal with the US for imprisoned Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich.

At his first major press conference since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Putin was asked by The New York Times’ Valerie Hopkins if a way could be found to being Gershkovich, 32, and imprisoned former Marine Paul Whelan, 53, home. 

‘Why have they committed offenses on Russian soil? They ought not to have done that. It is not that we decline to send them home. We want to come to terms and these agreements must be mutually acceptable,’ Putin said. 

‘We have contacts with our American partners on that. We are in touch with them and we pursue dialogue. It is not at all easy… but I think that we speak the language that both sides understand,’ he added. 

Gershkovich this morning faced another hearing in Moscow, where he is being held on spying charges. At that hearing, his detention was upheld. 

Putin was asked a question about imprisoned Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, shown here, as the journalist was remanded in custody in Moscow on spying charges 

Gershkovich stands in a glass cage in a courtroom at the Moscow City Court, in Moscow, Russia, on Thursday

Gershkovich stands in a glass cage in a courtroom at the Moscow City Court, in Moscow, Russia, on Thursday

During the first press conference since the Ukrainian invasion, Vladimir Putin indicated he was open to a deal involving a prisoner swap with the US

During the first press conference since the Ukrainian invasion, Vladimir Putin indicated he was open to a deal involving a prisoner swap with the US

 Russia arrested the reporter in March on a reporting trip to the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, 1,200 miles east of Moscow. Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal, and the White House have all denied that he is a spy, or works for the U.S. government. 

‘It is not simple, I will not go into details now, but in general, it seems to me that we speak a language that is understandable to each other. I hope we will find a solution.’

‘But, I repeat, the American side must hear us and make an appropriate decision, one that suits the Russian side,’ Putin said. 

Marine veteran Paul Whelan was arrested in 2018, convicted of spying for the U.S. in 2020 and sentenced to 16 years in prison. Whelan and the U.S. government both deny the charges.

The U.S. government considers both men to be wrongfully detained. The State Department said on Dec. 5 that Russia had in recent weeks rejected a substantial new proposal for their release.

Russia’s Federal Security Services allege that Gershkovich was ‘acting on the instructions of the American side, collected information constituting a state secret about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex.’ 

He has been behind bars ever since. Russian authorities haven’t detailed any evidence to support the espionage charges.

Also still languishing in a Russian prison is former Marine Paul Whelan, shown here

Also still languishing in a Russian prison is former Marine Paul Whelan, shown here

The Lefortovo District Court in Moscow on Nov. 28 ruled to extend his detention until the end of January, and the appeal Gershkovich has filed against that ruling was rejected by the Moscow City Court at a hearing Thursday.

Gershkovich is the first American reporter to be charged with espionage in Russia since 1986, when Nicholas Daniloff, a Moscow correspondent for U.S. News and World Report, was arrested by the KGB. He is being held at Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, notorious for its harsh conditions.

Analysts have pointed out that Moscow may be using jailed Americans as bargaining chips after U.S.-Russian tensions soared when Russia sent troops into Ukraine. 

At least two U.S. citizens arrested in Russia in recent years — including WNBA star Brittney Griner — have been exchanged for Russians jailed in the U.S.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has said it will consider a swap for Gershkovich only after a verdict in his trial. In Russia, espionage trials can last for more than a year.

The U.S. State Department said earlier this month that the Biden administration has made a new and significant offer aimed at securing the release of Gershkovich and another American detainee, Paul Whelan. 

Russia has rejected the offer, spokesman Matthew Miller said, without revealing either the details of the offer or why Russia had turned it down.

Lynne Tracy, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, attended the court hearing for Gershkovich’s appeal on Thursday and told reporters that ‘Evan’s ordeal has now stretched on for over 250 days. His life has been put on hold for over eight months for a crime he didn’t commit.’

‘Although Evan appeared as sharp and focused as ever today in the courtroom, it is not acceptable that Russian authorities have chosen to use him as a political pawn,’ Tracy said after the hearing.

ᴀʀᴛɪᴄʟᴇ ꜱᴏᴜʀᴄᴇ

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