The United States President, Joe Biden, has called on Russia to release Wall Street Journal reporter, Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested on charges of espionage. The Federal Security Service of Russia has accused Gershkovich, a US citizen, of attempting to obtain classified information. The allegations against Gershkovich mark the first time since the Cold War that an American journalist has been detained in Russia on accusations of spying. The Wall Street Journal denies the allegations.
Vice President Kamala Harris expressed deep concern about Gershkovich’s arrest while speaking at a news conference in Lusaka, Zambia. The Biden administration stated that it was working to secure US consular access to Gershkovich. President Biden was asked whether he would expel Russian diplomats or journalists in the US, but he responded that it was not currently part of the plan.
The White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, condemned the detention of Gershkovich, calling it “unacceptable” and stating that the administration condemns the targeting of US citizens in Russia “in the strongest terms.” The Biden administration has warned US citizens against traveling to Russia and has advised Americans in the country to leave immediately.
Dmitry Muratov, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning editor-in-chief of the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, spoke out against the Kremlin’s repression of independent journalism and said that Gershkovich was not an agent using his journalistic accreditation as a cover for espionage. Muratov also commented that the Kremlin tries to attribute espionage and treason to people at every step to show that journalism is an enemy profession for the country.
The detention of Gershkovich has sparked concern about the safety of journalists in Russia. Reporters Without Borders ranks Russia 149th out of 180 countries for press freedom. The Committee to Protect Journalists has also expressed concern about the situation, stating that “journalism is not a crime” and calling on Russian authorities to release Gershkovich immediately.
The case has also highlighted the tensions between the US and Russia, which have been strained in recent years due to issues such as election interference and the conflict in Ukraine. The Biden administration has taken a tough stance against Russia, imposing sanctions and expelling diplomats, and the detention of Gershkovich is likely to further strain relations between the two countries.