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8 Jul, 2023 18:19

US confirms talks with Russia on prisoner swap

The two sides have not found a “clear pathway to a resolution” so far, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan has said
US confirms talks with Russia on prisoner swap

American and Russian officials are holding talks on possible prisoner trades, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told journalists on Friday. The list of candidates for exchange includes Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, he added.

The negotiations have not yielded any tangible results so far, the senior White House official said, adding that he did not want to give “false hope.” Gershkovich was arrested in Russia in late March on espionage charges and has remained in custody ever since. In May, a Russian court extended his arrest until August 30.

“There have been discussions, but those discussions have not produced a clear pathway to a resolution,” Sullivan said, when asked about Gershkovich’s case. He also added that the US had no “clear answer” on how to secure the journalist’s release.

Earlier this week, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also confirmed that Moscow and Washington were holding talks on potential prisoner swaps. “We have said that there are certain contacts on this subject but we do not want to make them public in any way,” he said, adding that such discussions “should… continue in complete silence.”

Peskov did not mention Gershkovich’s case specifically. He only said that diplomatic access to those detained should be facilitated by both Moscow and Washington. His comments came after the US ambassador to Russia, Lynne Tracy, visited Gershkovich in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison. She stated that the reporter was in “good health” and remained “strong, despite his circumstances.”

The US officially designated Gershkovich “wrongfully detained” by Russia in April. Moscow maintains that what he was doing in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg “had nothing to do with journalism.” Peskov also previously described the reporter as being “caught red-handed” in an act of espionage.

It has also been reported that Washington has allegedly considered some “creative solutions” to secure Gershkovich's release, including arresting some “Russian spies” in third countries to offer in exchange. A Russian MP previously suggested trading the WSJ reporter for Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange, currently being held in a British maximum-security prison while the US seeks his extradition on espionage charges.