US demands Russia release of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich ‘wrongfully detained’ by Putin | The Sun
THE US State Department has demanded that Russia free a captured journalist who was "wrongfully detained" by Putin last month.
Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is accused by Russia of "espionage", something the Journal and the US government have both strongly denied.
AState Department spokesman, Vedant Patel, said in a statement: "Journalism is not a crime.
"We call for the Russian Federation to immediately release Mr Gershkovich."
He said that Secretary of State Antony Blinken "made a determination that Evan Gershkovich is wrongfully detained by Russia".
Mr Patel added: "We condemn the Kremlin's continued repression of independent voices in Russia, and its ongoing war against the truth."
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White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Monday: "He doesn’t belong there. He needs to be released. He’s a journalist, not a criminal.
"And it doesn’t mean that we aren’t going to continue to follow this case as closely as we can. We still don’t have consular access and we’re also trying to get that.”
Gershkovich, 31, was detained on March 29 and accused of espionage while reporting in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, about 800 miles east of Moscow.
His arrest is the first of a US journalist by Russia since 1986 before the end of the Cold War.
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The unusually swift formal decision by the State Department to officially condemn Mr Gershkovich's arrest as "wrongful" indicates how seriously it is being taken.
It means the case will now be transferred to the office of the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs, raising its profile and allowing the government to allocate more resources to securing the experienced journalist's release.
Mr Gershkovich is being held at the Lefortovo Prison, a pretrial detention centre run by the FSB, Russia's secret police.
Russia has responded to the international outcry by doubling down on its claims.
A Kremlin spokesman said that Gershkovich had "violated" Russian law.
The WSJ said it lost touch with the reporter in Yekaterinburg on March 28.
Russia's security service said it had halted "illegal activities" by detaining the journalist.
Press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders said he had gone to the city to cover Putin's private army, the Wagner Group of Russian mercenaries which has been engaged in fierce fighting in eastern Ukraine.
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Russia has not granted US consular officials access to Mr Gershkovich, in violation of international law.
Last week the Russian foreign ministry accused the US of making a "fuss" about the case to try and "pressure" Russian authorities.
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