Thursday, June 20, 2024

Lavrov to Blinken: Fate of detained WSJ reporter will be determined by Russian court

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that the fate of arrested Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich will be determined by a Russian court, according to a statement released by the Russian Foreign Ministry.

During a phone call initiated by the US Sunday, Lavrov blamed Washington and Western media for politicizing the arrest of the journalist.

“It was emphasized that it is unacceptable for officials in Washington and Western media to hype up (the issue) with the clear intention of giving this case a political coloring,” the statement added.

Gershkovich is currently held in the Lefortovo pre-detention center until May 29. He faces up to 20 years in prison on espionage charges.

Gershkovich’s detention marks the first time an American journalist has been detained on accusations by Moscow of spying since the Cold War. US officials have still not been able to meet with him as of Sunday.

The White House called Russia’s espionage claims “ridiculous”. And other global players have also defended the journalist, including the European Union, which condemned Moscow’s “systematic disregard” for media freedom.

The Wall Street Journal has categorically denied the allegations, calling Gershkovich a “trusted and dedicated reporter”. Gershkovich’s many friends have rallied to his defense.

The US State Department has also said Blinken spoke with Lavrov on Sunday about Gershkovich and Paul Whelan.

“Secretary Blinken conveyed the United States’ grave concern over Russia’s unacceptable detention of a US citizen journalist,” a readout from the State Department announced, adding, “The Secretary called for his immediate release.”

Blinken also urged the Kremlin to immediately release Whelan, a former Marine who the US says is wrongfully detained.

Whelan is serving a 16-year prison sentence for the same charges, which he strongly denies. He has been designated as wrongfully detained by the State Department.

Sunday’s call was one of only a handful of times the top US diplomat has spoken with his Russian counterpart since the war in Ukraine began, and all of those conversations have discussed detained US citizens.

The two spoke in person for the first time since the war broke out on the sidelines of the G20 Foreign Ministers meeting in India last month, and Blinken said he raised the war, Russia’s suspension of its participation in the New START nuclear agreement, and Whelan’s ongoing detention.

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