'Wrongfully detained' journalist Evan Gershkovich to remain in Russian prison through January

He has been accused of espionage, which both Gershkovich and the US State Department vehemently deny.

Katie Daviscourt Seattle WA
US journalist Evan Gershkovich will remain in Russian prison through January after a Russian court upheld his detention on Thursday, denying his appeal, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Evan Gershkovich, 32, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, has been in custody at Moscow's Lefortovo Prison since March 29. He has been accused of espionage, which both Gershkovich and the US State Department vehemently deny.

Gershkovich was accredited by Russia’s Foreign Ministry to work as a journalist before he was detained by Russia's Federal Security Service while working on an assignment in Yekaterinburg. The US State Department considers him to be wrongfully detained and has been calling for the journalist's release.

The Biden administration issued a new offer to free both Gershkovich and Paul Whelan, a former US Marine who has been serving a 16-year prison sentence in a Russian labor camp on espionage charges, but the Russian government rejected the most recent bid. The US State department also considers Whelan to be wrongfully detained.

The Biden administration was able to secure the release of WNBA player Brittney Griner as part of a prisoner swap, but had to choose between Griner and Whelan, and left Whelan behind.

On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said during a press briefing that Russia wants "to reach an agreement" on the return of Gershkovich.

“It is not easy. I will not go into details, but in general, it seems to me that we are speaking a language that we both understand. I hope that we will find a solution," Putin said.

Speaking on both of the American detainees, President Putin said: "It is not that we have refused to return them. We want to reach an agreement, and these agreements must be mutually acceptable and must suit both sides. We have contacts with our American partners in this regard, and there is an ongoing dialogue."

Whelan, an American citizen, is serving a 16-year sentence on an espionage conviction that he, his family and the US say is bogus.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters, "We very much want a deal."

"If Vladimir Putin is serious about this, all he has to do is look at the proposals that we have made to secure their release, which were significant proposals that were made in good faith and, I think, showed the willingness and the determination of the United States to bring both Paul and Evan home," he said on Thursday.

Gershkovich arrived in court to file an appeal of the decision from last month that prolonged his arrest at the FSB's request. After his appeal was denied on Thursday, he remains in custody until his trial on January 30, which will be ten months after his arrest. He is the first American journalist to face espionage charges in Russia since the Cold War, the outlet reports.

"Evan Gershkovich appeared in a Moscow City court today, where an appeal of the recent extension of his pre-trial detention was denied once again," the Journal said in a statement. “While we expected this outcome, it’s important that we appeal these rulings to call out the absurd nature of the charge. Evan has been wrongfully detained for more than 250 days for simply doing his job as a journalist, and any portrayal to the contrary is fiction. We will stand with Evan and his family for as long as it takes and continue to demand his immediate release."
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