Russian officials again extended the pre-trial detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich on Thursday.
A Moscow court rejected the American journalist’s appeal for his release Thursday, deeming he must remain in custody until at least Jan. 30, 2024, Reuters reported.
Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed calls for the release of Gershkovich, as well as former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, at his annual press conference in Moscow on Thursday.
“As for the possible extradition of these citizens [Gershkovich and Paul Whelan] to their homeland.… You say, why don’t they return to their homeland? Then shouldn’t they not commit crimes on the territory of the Russian Federation?” Putin said. “But this is all rhetoric. It’s not that we would refuse to return them. We didn’t refuse. We want to reach an agreement, and these agreements must be mutually acceptable and suit both parties. We have contacts with our American partners on this matter, and dialogue is ongoing on this matter. It is not simple, I will not go into details now … I hope we find a solution. But, I repeat, the American side must hear us and make an appropriate decision, one that suits the Russian side.”
IMPRISONED US MARINE VET PAUL WHELAN ASSAULTED OVER ‘POLITICAL DIFFERENCES,’ RUSSIAN NEWS AGENCY REPORTS
Gershkovich, 32, was detained in March while on a reporting trip to the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, about 1,200 miles east of Moscow.
Russia’s Federal Security Service alleged that the reporter, “acting on the instructions of the American side, collected information constituting a state secret about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex.” He has been behind bars ever since.
The Lefortovo District Court in Moscow on Nov. 28 ruled to extend his detention until the end of January, and the appeal Gershkovich filed against that ruling was rejected by the Moscow City Court at a hearing Thursday. Gershkovich and the Journal deny the allegations of espionage, and the U.S. government has declared him to be wrongfully detained.
Russian authorities have yet to detail any evidence to support the espionage charges, according to The Associated Press.
U.S. Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy attended the court hearing for Gershkovich’s appeal on Thursday.
WHITE HOUSE SAYS IT’S WORKING TO BRING WALL STREET JOURNAL REPORTER EVAN GERSHKOVICH HOME: ‘WILL NOT LET UP’
“Evan’s ordeal has now stretched on for over 250 days. His life has been put on hold for over eight months for a crime he didn’t commit,” she told reporters. “Although Evan appeared as sharp and focused as ever today in the courtroom, it is not acceptable that Russian authorities have chosen to use him as a political pawn.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry has said it will consider a swap for Gershkovich only after a verdict in his trial. In Russia, espionage trials can last for more than a year.
The U.S. State Department said earlier this month that the Biden administration has made a new and significant offer aimed at securing the releases of Gershkovich and Whelan. Russia has rejected the offer, spokesman Matthew Miller said, without revealing either the details of the offer or why Russia had turned it down.
Gershkovich is being held at Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, notorious for its harsh conditions. He is the first American reporter to be charged with espionage in Russia since 1986, when Nicholas Daniloff, a Moscow correspondent for U.S. News and World Report, was arrested by the KGB.
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At least two U.S. citizens arrested in Russia in recent years, including WNBA star Brittney Griner, have been exchanged for Russians jailed in the U.S.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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