(IntegrityPress.org) – Antony Blinken, American Secretary of State, has urged the immediate release of Evan Gershkovich and Paul Whelan, the two Americans detained in Russia, in a call with the foreign minister of Russia, Sergey Lavrov. Gershkovich, a journalist with the Wall Street Journal, was detained on espionage charges last week, the first American journalist to face such charges in Russia since the Cold War. As of Sunday, US officials had not yet been given consulate access to Gershkovich. Whelan, who disputes the charge of espionage, is currently serving a 16-year prison term.
In the call, Blinken expressed concern over the detention of the US citizen journalist and requested the release of Whelan, also noting the importance of creating an environment in which diplomatic missions can operate. Meanwhile, Lavrov informed Blinken that a Russian court would decide Gershkovich’s fate and urged Western authorities and journalists not to politicize the situation.
Blinken has spoken with Lavrov three times since the conflict in Ukraine began, each conversation concerning detained US citizens. He raised the issue of the war, Russia’s suspension of its participation in the New START nuclear agreement, and Whelan’s detention in their first in-person meeting last month.
The Journal where Gershkovich’s editor in chief works, Emma Tucker, has welcomed Blinken’s call with Lavrov, describing it as “hugely reassuring”. Whelan’s brother David said that he was sorry that “another American family will have to experience the same trauma that we have had to endure for the past 1,553 days”. The State Department has designated Whelan as wrongfully detained, and Tucker hopes that Gershkovich will receive the same designation, which would acknowledge the charges against him as “entirely bogus”.
Republican Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio expressed support for the Biden administration’s efforts to negotiate for Gershkovich’s release, but advised caution in visiting Russia. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has also stated that Russia is not safe for Americans at this time.
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