Russia said on Thursday that a possible prisoner swap involving Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich can only be considered after he is put on trial, despite efforts by the United States to push for his release.
Gershkovich was arrested last month after Russia’s Federal Security Service accused him of gathering classified information about a military factory, a claim that the WSJ and the United States have rejected as false.
“The question of exchanging anyone can be considered after the court delivers its verdict specifically on this or that charge,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted as saying by the TASS news agency.
“As for an exchange, we have a special channel for this, the security services deal with it, and they will continue to deal with this matter,” he said.
Washington’s hostage envoy pledged on Wednesday to do “whatever it takes” to bring home Gershkovich and ex-Marine Paul Whelan – another U.S. citizen detained in Russia, pressing Moscow to grant consular access to the WSJ reporter.
The United States has designated Gershkovich as “wrongfully detained”, effectively labelling the espionage charges as bogus and political.
The Kremlin on Thursday repeated its claim that Gershkovich had been caught “red-handed” and denied a report that President Vladimir Putin personally approved his arrest.
China flies 38 warplanes near Taiwan, 6 navy vessels in area
UK House of Commons set to back controversial migration bill
Ex-Harvard prof sentenced, fined for lying about China ties