US ambassador to Russia visited WSJ journalist Gershkovich in jail

WASHINGTON (Reuters): U.S. Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy met with jailed Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich on Monday, a State Department spokesperson said, in her third such visit since his March detention on espionage charges he denies.

“Ambassador Tracy said that Evan continues to appear in good health and remains strong, despite his circumstances,” the spokesperson said, adding that it was Washington’s expectation that Moscow would provide continued consular access.

“Once again, the United States calls on the Russian Federation to immediately release Evan Gershkovich and also to release wrongfully detained U.S. citizen Paul Whelan,” the spokesperson added.

Russia has said Gershkovich was caught trying to obtain military secrets while on a trip to the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, but has provided no details supporting that assertion. The Wall Street Journal also denies the allegations.

The State Department has designated Gershkovich and Whelan as wrongfully detained and described the charges against both men as baseless. Whelan, a former U.S. Marine detained in Moscow in 2018, is serving a 16-year sentence in a Russian penal colony on espionage charges.

Russia has agreed in the past to high-profile prisoner exchanges with the United States, most recently last year when American basketball star Brittney Griner, sentenced in Russia on a drug charge, was exchanged for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms trafficker convicted in the United States.

But Moscow has said no exchange could take place in Gershkovich’s case until a verdict has been reached. No date has so far been set for his trial.

U.S.-Russian relations are at their lowest point in more than six decades following Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.