Helsinki, Finland – President Joe Biden, in a joint press briefing with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, expressed his administration’s unwavering determination to pursue a prisoner exchange with Russia to secure the release of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who has been unjustly detained in Russia for over a hundred days.
During the briefing held on Thursday, a reporter from The Wall Street Journal raised the issue of Gershkovich’s imprisonment and sought an update on the ongoing efforts to secure his freedom. Responding emphatically, Biden stated, “I am serious about a prisoner exchange. We are committed to doing everything within our power to liberate Americans who are unlawfully held in Russia or any other country for that matter. The process is currently underway.”
Gershkovich, a 31-year-old journalist, had been stationed in Russia for approximately six years before being apprehended on what the United States government describes as baseless charges in late March. The U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Lynne Tracy, managed to visit Gershkovich for the first time in several months on July 5, providing some relief to his loved ones and colleagues.
Despite the challenging circumstances, Gershkovich remains in good health and exhibits remarkable resilience. Following the meeting, the U.S. embassy in Russia took to Twitter to provide an update, stating, “Evan is in good health and remains resilient despite the circumstances. We hope that the Russian authorities will provide regular consular access.”
Сегодня #ПосолТрейси встретилась с Эваном Гершковичем в московском СИЗО "Лефортово". Эван находится в добром здравии и сохраняет стойкость, несмотря на обстоятельства. Надеемся, что российские власти обеспечат регулярный консульский доступ.
— Посольство США в РФ/ U.S. Embassy Russia (@USEmbRu) July 3, 2023
While the Kremlin has acknowledged the possibility of a prisoner swap with the United States, Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, declined to divulge specific details, emphasizing the need for confidentiality. Peskov was questioned regarding the potential exchange involving Russian citizen Vladimir Dunaev, who is presently detained in the United States on charges related to cybercrime.
“We have acknowledged that certain discussions have taken place, but we prefer to keep them confidential,” Peskov replied when pressed about the talks between Russian and U.S. officials. “These negotiations should be conducted and continue in complete secrecy.”
It is worth noting that the most recent prisoner exchange between the United States and Russia occurred last year when the Biden administration successfully secured the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner in exchange for Viktor Bout, a notorious arms dealer.
The ongoing efforts to secure Gershkovich’s release highlight the Biden administration’s commitment to protecting the rights and welfare of American citizens abroad. The President’s unequivocal pledge to engage in a prisoner exchange signifies the seriousness with which his administration approaches the issue, and it underscores the urgency to secure the safe return of Evan Gershkovich and other Americans held in foreign custody.