Biden Affirms Commitment to Securing Prisoner Swap for WSJ Reporter Detained in Russia

HELSINKI (AP) — President Joe Biden on Thursday said he’s serious about pursuing a prisoner exchange for a Wall Street Journal reporter who has been detained in Russia for more than 100 days.

The Kremlin earlier this month suggested that it was open to a possible prisoner exchange that could involve Evan Gershkovich, but it underscored that such talks must be held out of the public eye.

Speaking at a news conference in Helsinki, Finland, Biden made clear that the U.S. is interested.

“I’m serious on a prisoner exchange,” said Biden, who was concluding a five-day visit to Europe that took him to the UK, Lithuania and Finland. “And I’m serious about doing all we can to free Americans being illegally held in Russia or anywhere else for that matter, and that process is underway.”

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is seen last month in Moscow while appealing the decision to keep him in a former KGB prison. Gershkovich had worked in Russia for six years before being detained and charged with spying in the interests of the American government.

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Gershkovich was arrested on espionage charges in the city of Yekaterinburg while on a reporting trip. He is being held at Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, notorious for its harsh conditions. A Moscow court recently upheld a ruling to keep him in custody until Aug. 30.

Gershkovich and his employer deny the allegations, and the U.S. government has declared him to be wrongfully detained. His arrest rattled journalists in Russia. Authorities there have not provided any evidence to support the espionage charges.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan confirmed last week that there have been “discussions” between the two sides, but cautioned that there is not yet “a clear pathway” to winning Gershkovich’s freedom.

Gershkovich is the first American reporter to face espionage charges in Russia since September 1986, when Nicholas Daniloff, a Moscow correspondent for U.S. News and World Report, was arrested by the KGB. Daniloff was released 20 days later in a swap for an employee of the Soviet Union’s U.N. mission who was arrested by the FBI, also on spying charges.


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