White House Condemns Russia, Warns Americans after Journalist’s Arrest 

March 30, 2023

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Thursday that the Biden Administration condemns “in the strongest terms” the arrest of a U.S. journalist and repeated State Department warnings that U.S. citizens should depart Russia “immediately.”

Evan Gershkovich, a reporter with the Wall Street Journal’s Moscow Bureau, was arrested by Russian authorities who have accused him of espionage, a charge that carries a potential 20-year prison sentence in that country.

During her daily briefing, Jean-Pierre said the President had been in touch with Gershkovich’s family and with his employers at the Journal. According to Moscow’s own intel and security arm, the FSB, Gershkovich is accredited to work in Russia as a journalist by Russia’s Foreign Ministry.

“These espionage charges are ridiculous,” said Jean-Pierre. “The targeting of American citizens by the Russian government is unacceptable. We condemn the detention of Mr. Gershkovich in the strongest terms. We also condemn the Russian government’s continued targeting and repression of journalists.”

Jean-Pierre also reiterated a warning from the State Department that Americans should avoid traveling to Russia. 

“U.S. citizens residing or traveling in Russia should depart immediately, as the State Department continues to advise,” she said. 

When a reporter asked her about negotiations to secure Gershkovich’s release, Jean-Pierre replied, “Due to privacy concerns we don’t have much more to share at this time. We want to be very mindful of the this.”

The State Department has also been working to release American Paul Whelan from Russian detainment. He’s has been imprisoned in Russia since 2018 on what his family says are trumped up charges of spying.

Earlier this month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in his first encounter with his Russian counterpart since that country’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, urged Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to accept a proposal for Whelan’s release.

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