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6 Apr, 2023 18:02

Russian MP suggests swapping WSJ reporter for Assange

Evan Gershkovich and the WikiLeaks publisher are both facing espionage charges
Russian MP suggests swapping WSJ reporter for Assange

If Moscow decides on a prisoner swap involving Evan Gershkovich, it should ask for Julian Assange’s release from a British dungeon, Russian State Duma Deputy Sergey Obuhkov said on Friday.

Obuhkov, a Russian Communist Party MP, told reporters that some members of the Duma have already proposed offering political asylum to former US President Donald Trump and trading him for Gershkovich.

“I say, let’s exchange him for Assange instead,” Obukhov told RIA Novosti.

Russian authorities detained Gershkovich in Ekaterinburg on March 30, saying they caught him “red-handed” in an act of espionage. A Lefortovo court has ordered the Moscow bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal to remain in custody for two months. He is appealing the decision and will face the judges again on April 18.

Earlier this week, the district attorney in New York had the 45th US president arrested on charges of improper business bookkeeping, supposedly related to “hush money” paid to porn actress Stormy Daniels, which they allege somehow improperly influenced the 2016 presidential election. Trump has denounced the charges as a politically motivated “witch hunt.”

Assange has been held in Belmarsh prison in south London since April 2019, after Ecuador canceled his asylum under pressure from the US. He had spent almost seven years in the embassy of the Latin American country, seeking refuge from trumped-up Swedish charges he called a front for US persecution.

After his arrest, Washington unsealed a years-old indictment charging the WikiLeaks publisher under the Espionage Act. He is wanted for the 2010 publication of the notorious 'Collateral Murder' video showing the US military killing civilians, as well as other US classified documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If extradited and convicted, Assange faces up to 175 years behind bars.

Russia and the US last swapped prisoners in December, with Moscow releasing convicted drug smuggler and basketball star Brittney Griner in exchange for businessman Viktor Bout. Washington has faced criticism for not requesting the release of Paul Whelan, a retired US Marine serving a sentence in Russia for espionage.

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