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Dozens of people gathered on March 28 in a Washington square on the eve of the first anniversary of the arrest of Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich in Russia to demand his release.

The event sponsored by the National Press Club marked a full year in prison for Gershkovich, 32, whose detention was extended until June 30 earlier this week by the Moscow City Court.

Gershkovich became the first American journalist arrested for espionage in Russia since the Cold War when he was arrested on March 29, 2023, by the Federal Security Service (FSB), which said he had tried to obtain military secrets .

The Wall Street Journal and the US government have vehemently rejected accusations of espionage, saying he was simply doing his job as an accredited journalist when he was arrested.

The group that gathered March 28 in Washington posed in Freedom Plaza with the U.S. Capitol in the background and with each participant holding a paper that read #IStandWithEvan. The gathering included fellow journalists, press leaders, and friends and relatives of Gershkovich.

RFE/RL's Alsou Kurmasheva stands in a glass cage in a courtroom in Kazan on February 1.

RFE/RL’s Alsou Kurmasheva stands in a glass cage in a courtroom in Kazan on February 1.

Wall Street Journal deputy editor Paul Beckett, who is leading the paper’s efforts to free Gershkovich, also participated alongside Gershkovich’s sister, Danielle Gershkovich.

Photos from the event were shared on social media to support The Wall Street Journal’s efforts to raise awareness about the Gershkovich case.unjust detention in Moscow,” said Bill McCarren, executive director of the National Press Club, who also attended the event.

Earlier on March 28 in Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was asked about reports of a possible prisoner exchange involving Gershkovich, and he stressed the importance of silence over any negotiations.

“We have repeatedly emphasized that there are certain contacts, but they must be carried out in absolute silence,” Peskov said.

Gershkovich is one of two American journalists currently detained by Russian authorities. The other is Alsou Kurmasheva, an RFE/RL journalist who has dual Russian-American citizenship.

Kurmasheva, 47, was arrested in Kazan last October and charged with failing to register as a foreign agent under a punitive Russian law that targets journalists, civil society activists and others. She was also charged with spreading lies about the Russian military and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

RFE/RL and the US government say the charges are retaliation for his work as a journalist for RFE/RL in Prague. She had traveled to Russia to visit and care for her elderly mother. detained while waiting for his return flight on June 2 at Kazan airport, where his American and Russian passports were confiscated.

Gershkovich was designated as wrongfully detained by the U.S. government. However, Kurmasheva did not do so, despite calls from RFE/RL and Kurmasheva’s family.

The Wall Street Journal of March 28 published a story about her detention and the difficulties her husband, Pavel Butorin, who also works for RFE/RL in Prague, and their two daughters, aged 12 and 15, faced without her and their efforts to have her designated as a detainee unfairly.

The designation would mean his case would be assigned to the Office of the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs at the State Department, raising the political profile of his situation and allowing the Biden administration to allocate more resources to obtain his release. That designation currently only applies to Gershkovich and another American detained in Russia, Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Navy and corporate security official who is serving a 16-year prison sentence for espionage.

Beckett said other events marking the anniversary of Gershkovich’s detention include a 24-hour reading of his work by his Wall Street Journal colleagues at the newspaper’s New York headquarters and swimming events on Brighton beaches in New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, United States and Great Britain.

The beaches were chosen in recognition of his family’s connection to Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, New York, which is home to a large Russian immigrant community. Gershkovich’s parents emigrated separately from the Soviet Union in 1979.

Imprisoned RFE/RL journalists (from left): Alsou Kurmasheva, Ihar Losik, Andrey Kuznechyk and Vladyslav Yesypenko

RFE/RL journalists imprisoned (from left): Alsou Kurmasheva, Ihar Losik, Andrey Kuznechyk and Vladyslav Yesypenko

Kurmasheva is one of four RFE/RL journalists – Andrey Kuznechyk, Ihar Losik and Vladyslav Yesypenko are the other three – currently imprisoned on charges related to their work. Human rights groups and RFE/RL have repeatedly called for the release of the four men, saying they were wrongly detained.

Losik is a blogger and contributor to RFE/RL’s Belarusian service who was convicted in December 2021 of several charges, including “organizing and preparing actions seriously violating public order” and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Kuznechyk, web editor for RFE/RL’s Belarusian service, was sentenced in June 2022 to six years in prison following a trial that lasted only a few hours. He was found guilty of “creating or participating in an extremist organization”.

Yesypenko, a Ukrainian and Russian citizen who contributed to Crimea.Realities, a regional news outlet of RFE/RL’s Ukraine Service, was sentenced in February 2022 to six years in prison by a Russian judge in occupied Crimea after a trial behind closed doors. He was found guilty of “possession and transportation of explosives”, a charge he categorically denies.

With Reuters reporting



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