Biden calls Russian jailing of US journalist 'totally illegal'

Biden calls Russian jailing of US journalist 'totally illegal'

US President Joe Biden said he is working for the release of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who has been detained in Russia since March 29, 2023
US President Joe Biden said he is working for the release of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who has been detained in Russia since March 29, 2023. Photo: Jim WATSON / AFP
Source: AFP

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President Joe Biden on Tuesday called Russia's imprisonment of US journalist Evan Gershkovich on spying charges "totally illegal" and told The Wall Street Journal reporter's family he was working for a release.

"We're making it real clear that it's totally illegal what's happening, and we declared it so. It changes the dynamic," Biden, departing Washington for a trip to Northern Ireland and Ireland, told reporters.

The White House said later that Biden had telephoned Gershkovich's family from Air Force One.

The president told them he is "focused on securing Evan's release," as well as that of another detained American, Paul Whelan, from Russia, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.

"We are encouraged that the State Department has officially designated Evan as wrongfully detained," the family said in a statement.

"We appreciate President Biden's call to us today, assuring us that the US government is doing everything in its power to bring him home as quickly as possible."

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It added: "In addition to being a distinguished journalist, Evan is a beloved son and brother. There is a hole in our hearts and in our family that won’t be filled until we are reunited."

Gershkovich, an experienced reporter for The Wall Street Journal in Russia, was detained in Yekaterinburg, some 1,100 miles (1,800 kilometers) east of Moscow on March 29.

Russian news agencies said Friday he was charged with espionage, an allegation denied by Gershkovich and his employer.

On Monday, the State Department formally classified the reporter as "wrongfully detained" -- a status that puts the case in the hands of the special envoy for hostages, Roger Carstens.

However, the Russian authorities continue to deny Gershkovich access to US consular officials, the White House said.

"We want to make sure we get consular access to him, which we haven't had," National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

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Asked the reason for the delay, Kirby said "it's a question for Russian officials. But it's not for lack of trying, I can assure you that."

The State Department has sought to get consular access to Gershkovich "since the moment we found out he was detained," Kirby added.

"We're very early in the process here."

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Source: AFP

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