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Putin indicates willingness to free WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovich

Russian president says any deal must be to the benefit of both sides.

Russian president says any deal must be to the benefit of both sides.

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich appears at a hearing in a Russian courtroom on Tuesday, April 18, 2023. (Photo via social media)
Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich appears at a hearing in a Russian courtroom on Tuesday, April 18, 2023. (Photo via social media)

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he is open to a mutually-beneficial deal with the United States that would lead to the release of a jailed Wall Street Journal reporter.

On Thursday, Putin was asked by a reporter about ongoing negotiations with the United States concerning Evan Gershkovich, a journalist who was arrested earlier this year on unsubstantiated charges of espionage.

The question was raised during a press conference, held about a week after the U.S. State Department revealed American government officials had unsuccessfully negotiated a deal with the Russian government for Gershkovich’s release from jail. The deal would also have led to the release of an American contractor who has been in custody for a longer period of time.

“It is not that we have refused to return them,” Putin said on Thursday. “We want to reach an agreement, and these agreements must be mutually acceptable and must suit both sides. We have contacts with our American partners in this regard, and there is an ongoing dialogue.”

Putin declined to offer further insight on what the Russian government wanted in exchange for releasing the two Americans, but said he felt “we are speaking a language that we both understand,” adding that he had hopes that both sides “will find a solution.”

“If Vladimir Putin is serious about this, all he has to do is look at the proposals that we have made to secure their release,” Matthew Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, said on Thursday. “[They] were significant proposals that were made in good faith and, I think, showed the willingness and the determination of the United States to bring both Paul and Evan home.”

Russia has provided no public evidence that Gershkovich and the other American captive, contractor Paul Whelan, engaged in any espionage against the government there. Gershkovich has been held in pre-trial detention, and efforts to secure his release prior to trial have failed.

Whelan was arrested in 2018 and convicted two years later. He was given a 16-year prison sentence. His family has called the case against him “bogus,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).