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Biden administration preparing to declare Wall Street Journal reporter arrested in Russia as wrongfully detained


By Kylie Atwood, CNN

The Biden administration is preparing to officially declare Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich as wrongfully detained in Russia, two US officials told CNN, a move that will trigger new US government resources to work towards his release.

The designation, which is expected in the coming days, follows an ongoing internal review of the circumstances surrounding Gershkovich’s arrest, officials said. The State Department’s office of hostage affairs will then lead the US efforts to get Gershkovich home.

Russian authorities detained Gershkovich last week and accused him of spying, signaling a significant ratcheting of both Moscow’s tensions with the United States and its campaign against foreign news media.

Wall Street Journal editor-in-chief Emma Tucker said over the weekend that she hoped the US would swiftly label Gershkovich as wrongfully detained, saying that it would be an official recognition that the charges against the reporter are “entirely bogus.”

Gershkovich’s arrest marks the first time an American journalist has been detained on accusations by Moscow of spying since the Cold War.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke over the weekend with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and called for Gershkovich’s “immediate release.”

But even before that conversation, the Biden administration delivered a clear message to Russia regarding the arrest. On Thursday, Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov was summoned to the State Department where he met with Under Secretary for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland, according to two US officials. Antonov had no response to the US push for Gershkovich’s release, only reading Russia’s public statement on the incident, one of the US officials said.

Last week, State Department principal deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said he did not want to get ahead of the process, but said he did not believe there was any truth to the accusations against Gershkovich. John Kirby, a spokesperson for the US National Security Council, called the charges “nonsense.”

Prisoner swaps have led to the release pf the last two Americans who were wrongfully detained in Russia. But as US officials begin to consider ways to secure Gershkovich’s release, some are concerned about a prisoner swap in this case incentivizing the detainment of American journalists, one US official said.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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