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9 Feb, 2024 07:05

Putin doesn’t rule out release of US journalist

Evan Gershkovich was caught red-handed receiving secret information, the Russian president has said
Putin doesn’t rule out release of US journalist

Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter currently held in Russia on espionage charges, could return home if the US is willing to reciprocate, Russian President Vladimir Putin told American journalist Tucker Carlson on Thursday. 

The intelligence services of the US and Russia are already in contact and are discussing the issue, Putin told Carlson in an expansive interview, when asked about releasing Gershkovich as a “sign of your decency.”

None of Moscow’s many goodwill gestures have been reciprocated, Putin said, explaining that while Russia has “exhausted” its stock of “goodwill gestures,” it is not turning away from discussing the problem.

Gershkovich is a US national who was arrested by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) in March 2023 in Ekaterinburg. According to officials, he was gathering classified information related to a Russian military-industrial enterprise in the city. His detention has been extended several times by the court while he is in custody awaiting trial for espionage.

Carlson urged Putin to release the reporter, arguing that he is “obviously not a spy,” and while “maybe he was breaking your law in some way,” he is no “superspy.”

Putin, who was once a member of the Soviet intelligence services, said there are definitions in the law for Gershkovich’s activities.

I would like to reiterate that getting classified information in secret is called espionage, and he was working for the US special services, some other agencies.

Putin remarked that whether the reporter was pulled into the business by another party or not, the act itself was espionage – as proven when he was “caught red-handed when he was receiving this information.”

The president noted that there are people within the control of the US, “wherever they may be imprisoned,” that might be offered for exchange, adding that there are examples of successful negotiations between the countries’ intelligence services regarding these matters.

Late last year, the US and Russia conducted a high-profile prisoner exchange, swapping Russian businessman Viktor Bout for WNBA star Brittney Griner. Bout was imprisoned in the US on gun-running charges. He denied any wrongdoing in the case. Griner was serving a nine-year prison sentence on drug charges after cannabis oil was found in her luggage in a Moscow airport in February 2023.