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A year after Evan Gershkovich’s arrest in Russia, the Wall Street Journal journalist’s family has vowed to continue fighting for his release from a Moscow prison where he is being held on espionage charges that the White House and its employer consider to be false.

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.

Gershkovich stands in the defendants’ cage before a court hearing to consider an appeal against his pre-trial detention on espionage charges in Moscow on October 10, 2023.

Gershkovich had his detention extended until June 30 by the Moscow City Court earlier this week. The Kremlin said on March 29 that it had no information on when the 32-year-old’s trial would begin. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

“We never anticipated this situation happening to our son and brother, let alone a full year without certainty or a path forward,” his family said in a letter published by the Wall Street Journal on March 29. occasion of this anniversary.

“But despite this long battle, we remain strong.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement statement on March 29, “to date, Russia has provided no evidence of wrongdoing for one simple reason: Evan did nothing wrong. Journalism is not a crime.”

Born in the United States to Soviet immigrants, Gershkovich lived in Russia for six years before being detained in Yekaterinburg, in the Urals.

Leon Panetta, a former CIA director, said the United States had to play a “tough game” with Russian President Vladimir Putin in order to secure Gershkovich’s release.

“We need to play a tough game with Putin to make sure he doesn’t get away with this kind of game.” Panetta said on Fox News.

Gershkovich will ultimately be released through a prisoner exchange, Panetta predicted, saying the United States could “develop some leverage” for such a deal by arresting Russian spies in the United States “so that (Putin) will have a reason to come to the negotiating table. “.

State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel, also speaking on Fox News, said the United States engages daily with “the highest levels of the Russian government” in its efforts to secure the release of Gershkovich, but said it was “important not to talk about ongoing deliberations.” public.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also stressed the importance of silence on any negotiations, but Wall Street Journal deputy editor Paul Beckett, who is leading the paper’s efforts to free Gershkovich, said the Negotiations involving Gershkovich at all levels keep his supporters “optimistic that something can be done.” do.”

Russian authorities accuse Gershkovich of collecting state secrets about the military-industrial complex at the request of the U.S. government.

Wall Street Journal deputy editor Paul Beckett, who is leading the paper’s effort to free Gershkovich, told Current Time in an interview broadcast March 29 that the journalist was “holding up well under very difficult circumstances.”

“He is in his cell 23 hours a day. He spends an hour outside in the courtyard, which is about the same size as his cell. So we are very grateful that he was able to maintain his balance,” Beckett said of Gershkovich’s incarceration at Moscow’s Lefortovo prison.

Beckett said that in addition to more than an hour of court time a day, Gershkovich was in constant correspondence with his family, including exchanging lines from shows they enjoyed together and weekly meetings with his attorneys.

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.

But Beckett said discussions involving Gershkovich at all levels keep his supporters “optimistic that something can be done.”

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.

RFE/RL journalist Alsou Kurmasheva stands in a glass cage in a courtroom in Kazan, Russia, February 1.

RFE/RL journalist Alsou Kurmasheva stands in a glass cage in a courtroom in Kazan, Russia, February 1.

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. She was initially arrested while waiting for her return flight on June 2 at Kazan airport, where her American and Russian passports were located. 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 faced by her husband, Pavel Butorin, who also works for RFE/RL in Prague, and their two daughters, aged 12 and 15, without her and their efforts to have her designated as unjustly detained.

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.

Other events to mark the first anniversary of Gershkovich’s detention include a 24-hour reading-a-thon of his work by his Wall Street Journal colleagues at the newspaper’s New York headquarters and swimming events on the beaches of Brighton. 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.

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