Evan Gershkovich remains detained in Russian prison 6 months later

The U.S. and the Kremlin confirmed talks seeking to find a deal to free him.

September 29, 2023, 5:10 AM

Friday marks six months since Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was arrested and detained by Russian authorities on espionage charges, allegations that Gershkovich, the WSJ, the U.S. government and dozens of international news organizations have vehemently denied. Gershkovich remains behind bars in Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo prison.

In March, Gershkovich, who was an accredited correspondent in Russia, was on a reporting trip in the city of Yekaterinburg, when he was arrested by the country’s powerful FSB domestic intelligence service. The U.S. government has declared Gershkovich wrongfully detained and most experts believe Russia has seized him as a bargaining chip to use as leverage with the United States, similar to other Americans held hostage by the Kremlin, such as the WNBA star Brittney Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan.

The Biden administration and the Kremlin have confirmed they have held talks seeking to find a deal to free Gershkovich.

In July, Gershkovich’s mother Ella Millman spoke to ABC News' George Stephanopoulos about a conversation she said she had with President Joe Biden about his efforts to bring her son home.

"President Biden spoke to us and gave us a promise to do whatever it takes," Millman said in an interview with "Good Morning America."

But as the war in Ukraine continues, the Biden administration has cautioned that the talks to free Gershkovich are difficult. Last week, the White House said it was engaged in "very active" discussions to free him and Whelan, but that it was "tough."

Gershkovich, 31, last appeared in court on Sept. 19 to appeal an order for his pre-trial detention. The court declined to hear his appeal, citing unspecified procedural irregularities and sent the case back to a lower court to resolve, according to a statement on the court’s website. A new hearing on extending his detention is likely to happen before it is set to expire on Nov. 30.

If convicted at trial, Gershkovich could face up to 10-20 years behind bars.

Back in the U.S., Gershkovich’s family and others continue to advocate for his release.

Standing before world leaders last week at the United Nations in New York City, Gershkovich’s parents and sister pleaded for international calls on Russia to release him. The Wall Street Journal and other news outlets also continue to publish stories highlighting the reporter’s wrongful detention, and his unwavering commitment to his craft.

The outpouring of support also extends to Gershkovich’s alma maters including Princeton High School in New Jersey where just this week the boy’s soccer team hit the field for a match, donning T-shirts emblazoned with the hashtag message, #IStandWithEvan. The team dedicated their victory in the game to Gershkovich.

Additionally, Bowdoin College, the university where Gershkovich studied, a panel was held Tuesday and discussed the detained journalist, his work and his lasting impact on the university.

While Gershkovich continues to hold out in Moscow’s Lefortovo Prison, strangers are penning encouraging letters to him from around the world — a campaign springboarded by his friends immediately following his imprisonment.

Despite his imprisonment, those who have corresponded with Gershkovich have relayed his good spirits. That includes the journalist’s parents who told Stephanopoulos in July that Gershkovich spends his days meditating, exercising, reading and writing. Last week, the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Lynne Tracy, visited Gershkovich in prison and reiterated his strength, writing on the platform X (formerly known as Twitter) that the journalist is also managing to keep up with the news as he is held in detention.

Gershkovich has worked in Russia since 2017, first with the local outlet The Moscow Times and then Agence France Presse, before joining the WSJ in March 2022. Born to two Soviet Jewish emigres, Gershkovich grew up in New Jersey, speaking Russian at home.

Most experts believe a prisoner exchange is the most likely way of freeing Gershkovich. Brittney Griner was freed last December after nine months in detention in a trade for the notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout, who was jailed in the U.S. on terrorism charges. Trevor Reed, another former Marine who was held prisoner for nearly three years on charges the U.S. said were trumped up, was also freed last year in an exchange for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot convicted on drug smuggling charges.

Paul Whelan, the Marine Corps veteran has been detained in Russia since 2018. He was sentenced to 16 years on espionage charges, which the U.S., Whelan and his family also say were fabricated.

These six months mark 184 days of Evan’s family and friends missing him dearly. They tell ABC News they will not stop fighting to get him back home. To learn more about Evan’s case please visit www.freegershkovich.com.

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