Blinken says reporter was ‘unfairly detained’ by Russia

However, Blinken said a formal determination of Evan Gershkovich’s wrongful detention has not yet been made, something that would elevate the priority of his case within the US government.

Blinken said the legal process for such a determination would be completed soon.

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Evan Gershkovich, Wall Street Journal journalist (The Wall Street Journal via AP)

“In Evan’s case, we are working on the wrongful detention determination. There is a process to do that,” he said.

“I will let that process unfold.

“In my opinion, there is no question that Russia is unfairly detaining him,” Blinken told reporters.

Blinken’s comments at NATO headquarters in Brussels came just days after he directly urged his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, to immediately release Gershkovich and another jailed American, Paul Whelan, who had already been determined to have been wrongfully detained.

Blinken made that demand in what was a rare phone call with Lavrov since Russia invaded Ukraine early last year.

When the US government formally designates an American as wrongfully detained, it shifts oversight of the person’s case to a specialized section of the State Department, the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, which focuses on negotiating the release of captives.

The designation empowers the government to use a variety of tools, including diplomacy, to secure the release of a captured American rather than simply waiting for a criminal case to work its way through the system.

Lawyers for Gershkovich, the son of immigrants from the Soviet Union who grew up speaking Russian at his home in Princeton, New Jersey, appealed his arrest.

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United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken (Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP)

The Journal has strongly denied the allegations and demanded his release. American officials have also called on Russia to release him, and President Joe Biden told reporters on Friday that his message to Russia was: “Let him go.”

The FSB, Russia’s main security agency and successor to the KGB, said Gershkovich was trying to obtain classified information about a Russian arms factory.

He is the first US correspondent to be detained on espionage charges since the Cold War.

In its summary of the phone call on Sunday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Lavrov “drew Blinken’s attention to the need to respect the decisions of the Russian authorities” about Gershkovich, who, according to Moscow, without evidence, ” He was caught red-handed.”

The Kremlin said Lavrov also told Blinken that it was unacceptable for US officials and Western media to continue to “generate excitement” and politicize the journalist’s detention.

“Her future fate will be determined by the court,” Lavrov said.


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