Biden Calls Family of Journalist Detained in Russia

April 12, 2023

President Biden on Tuesday called the family of Evan Gershkovich, the U.S. journalist the government says is wrongfully detained in Russia.

Arrested on March 29, Russia’s FSB security services said Gershkovich, who reports for the Wall Street Journal, “was collecting classified information about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military industrial complex.”

Despite the Russian Foreign Ministry and the FSB acknowledging that Gershkovich is an accredited journalist in Russia, the 31-year-old American has been charged with espionage, which carries a potential prison sentence in Russia of up to 20 years. 

In his conversation with Gershkovich’s family, Biden “made it clear that his national security team has been and will remain focused on securing Evan’s release as well as that of Paul Whelan, both of whom are wrongfully detained in Russia,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters. She added that the charges against the journalist are “completely baseless.”

Whelan, a former U.S. Marine, was arrested in 2018 and is serving a 16-year sentence in a Russian penal colony on what his family says are fabricated charges of spying.

Yesterday, the State Department officially designated Gershkovich as “wrongfully detained.”

When the U.S. government formally designates an American as such, it shifts supervision of that person’s case to a specialized State Department section, called the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs. That department is focused on negotiating for the release of captives.

After their phone call, the Gershkovich family said in a statement, “We appreciate President Biden’s call to us today, assuring us that the U.S. government is doing everything in its power to bring him home as quickly as possible.”

PHOTO: LinkedIn

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