US ambassador confirms well-being of jailed journalist in Russia


Russia granted the United States consular access to Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal journalist who has been imprisoned for over two months. US Ambassador Lynne Tracy visited Gershkovich at Moscow’s Lefortovo prison and reported that he is in good health, marking only her second meeting with him since his arrest on March 29 during a reporting trip in the Urals.

According to a spokesperson from the State Department, Ambassador Tracy’s assessment of Mr. Gershkovich’s condition revealed that he remains strong and in good health despite his circumstances. Gershkovich, formerly associated with AFP, has become the first Western journalist to be detained and accused of espionage by Moscow since the Soviet era, contributing to the strained relations between Russia and the West due to the ongoing Ukraine conflict.

Both the United States and The Wall Street Journal have vehemently denied the espionage allegations against Gershkovich. The State Department has expressed its commitment to securing his release and ensuring consistent consular visits until that time. The spokesperson stated that the US embassy officials will continue to offer the necessary support to Gershkovich and his family, while also emphasizing the expectation of continued consular access from Russian authorities.

The Russian government had previously denied requests for further visits following Ambassador Tracy’s initial meeting in April, prompting protests from Washington over Russia’s violation of protocol. Russian officials claimed that their actions were in response to the United States’ refusal to grant visas to Russian state-affiliated media representatives who sought to visit New York during Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s trip to the United Nations.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a recent address to the Council on Foreign Relations, expressed concern about Russia’s denial of consular access to Gershkovich and stated that the United States was pushing for progress on the matter on an almost daily basis. Blinken also mentioned ongoing efforts to explore avenues for bringing Gershkovich and another imprisoned American, Paul Whelan, back home. Whelan, a former US Marine, has been incarcerated in the Mordovia region, approximately 400 kilometers southeast of Moscow, known for its harsh prison conditions. Ambassador Tracy last saw Whelan in May.

Gershkovich’s appeal for release was rejected by a Moscow court on June 22, a development that drew extreme disappointment from the United States, as Ambassador Tracy attended the hearing. Since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the United States has significantly reduced high-level contact with Russia. However, the two countries have engaged in discussions regarding potential prisoner swaps. Notably, in December, Russia released basketball star Brittney Griner, who had been arrested for possessing traces of cannabis, in exchange for the release of Viktor Bout, a Russian imprisoned in the United States on charges of weapons smuggling.

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