A call this past Sunday between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Secretary of State Antony Blinken resulting in the calling for the “immediate release” of a pair of Americans that are currently stuck in Russian prisons, explained an announcement from the State Department.
Blinken issued a demand for the release of both Paul Whelan, a U.S. Marine veteran who has been trapped in the country since 2018, and Evan Gershkovich, an American reporter for The Wall Street Journal. Gershkovich was arrested this past week due to accusations of espionage by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB).
“Secretary Blinken conveyed the United States’ grave concern over Russia’s unacceptable detention of a U.S. citizen journalist,” explained the State Department in a readout. “The Secretary called for his immediate release. Secretary Blinken further urged the Kremlin to immediately release wrongfully detained U.S. citizen Paul Whelan.”
“The Secretary and Foreign Minister Lavrov also discussed the importance of creating an environment that permits diplomatic missions to carry out their work,” the statement went on to add.
Back on the 29th of March, in what marks the first American Journalist being arrested on charges of espionage charges since 1986, Gershokovich was taken into police custody in Yekaterinburg, an area near the Ural Mountains, while taking part in a reporting trip, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.
On the other hand, Whelen is currently carrying out a prison sentence of 16 years at a penal colony for also espionage charges, accusations which have been avidly denied by Whelan and the claims that the U.S. government stated are baseless.
“I spoke with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov today to convey our grave concern over Russia’s unacceptable detention of a U.S. citizen journalist,” Blinken expressed in a social media post this past weekend. “I called for his release and for the release of wrongfully detained U.S. citizen Paul Whelan.”
I spoke with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov today to convey our grave concern over Russia’s unacceptable detention of a U.S. citizen journalist. I called for his release and for the release of wrongfully detained U.S. citizen Paul Whelan.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) April 2, 2023
In another statement coming from Russia, the Russian Foreign Ministry made the claim that the United States was heavily politicizing Gershokovich’s detention, claiming, “it is unacceptable for officials in Washington and the western media to whip up a stir with the clear intention of giving this case a political colouring.”
“Blinken’s attention was drawn to the need to respect the decisions of the Russian authorities, taken in accordance with the law and international obligations of the Russian Federation,” continued the foreign ministry.
Russia has yet to offer up any kind of evidence for its current allegations targeting Gershkovich but did claim that he had been “caught red-handed while trying to obtain secret information, collecting data constituting a state secret under the guise of a journalistic status.”
“In the light of the established facts of the illegal activities of the U.S. citizen … his further fate will be determined by the court,”finished the foreign ministry.
Gershkovich is looking down the barrel of a 20-year prison sentence, as reported by the New York Times.