Washington (CNN) The US State Department officially appointed the Wall Street Journal correspondent on Monday Ivan Gershkovich Wrongfully detained by Russia.
“Today, Secretary Blinken determined that Ivan Gershkovich was wrongfully detained by Russia,” State Department principal deputy spokesman Vedant Patel said in a statement.
The designation lends further support to claims by the US government and the Wall Street Journal that the espionage charges against the reporter are baseless. That would empower the Biden administration to explore options Prisoner exchange etc To try to secure Gershkovich’s release.
His case will now be handled at the State Department by the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, which has played a key role in the release of American citizens held hostage and wrongfully detained around the world.
Paul Whelan, who has been imprisoned in Russia for more than four years on espionage charges he and the US government denies, has been declared wrongfully detained.
In his statement, Patel said, “The US government will provide all appropriate support to Mr. Gershkovich and his family.”
“We call on the Russian Federation to immediately release Mr. Gershkovich,” he said. “We call on Russia to release wrongfully detained US citizen Paul Whelan.”
“We are doing everything we can to support Evan and his family and will continue to work with the State Department and other relevant U.S. officials to secure his release,” the Wall Street Journal’s editor-in-chief and publisher said Monday.
“He is a distinguished journalist and his arrest is an attack on a free press and it will provoke the outrage of all free peoples and governments around the world,” said a statement by Emma Tucker and Almar Latur.
Gershkovich was detained in late March He was formally charged with espionage last Friday. As of Monday, officials at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow had not been granted consular access to Gershkovich.
“This is a violation of Russia’s obligations under our diplomatic convention and a violation of international law,” Patel told a State Department briefing on Monday. “We have emphasized the need for the Russian government to provide this access as soon as possible.”
The official determination that Gershkovich was wrongfully detained comes after a bureaucratic process within the US government.
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said last week that he was going through that process “very deliberately but quickly,” but “(in his) own mind, there’s no doubt that he’s been wrongly detained by Russia.”
The journalist’s arrest — the first of its kind in Russia since the Cold War — prompted a top U.S. diplomat to act. A rare call to his Russian counterpart.
“Secretary Blinken expressed the United States’ grave concern about Russia’s unacceptable detention of an American citizen journalist,” the State Department readout of the April 2 call said.
The call was the third time Blinken has spoken with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov since the war in Ukraine began, and all of those conversations have discussed detained U.S. citizens. The two spoke in person for the first time since the war broke out on the sidelines of the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting in India last month, and Blinken said the war raised issues such as Russia’s suspension of participation in the New START nuclear deal. , and Whelan’s continued detention.