U.S. Confirms Talks With Russia on Evan Gershkovich Prisoner Swap

The United States confirmed on Friday that it was in talks with Russia about a potential prisoner swap for the Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, but cautioned that the discussions had not yet produced “a clear pathway to a resolution.”

The Kremlin spokesman Dmitri S. Peskov said this week that the two countries were in contact about the possibility of a swap. President Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, confirmed the Kremlin’s remarks on Friday, but he said that he did not want to give “false hope.”

“There have been discussions, but those discussions have not produced a clear pathway to a resolution,” Mr. Sullivan told reporters, adding that the U.S. did not have a “clear answer” on how it would secure Mr. Gershkovich’s release.

“All I can do,” he said, “is tell you that we have a clear commitment and conviction that we will do everything possible to bring him home.”

Mr. Sullivan had met with members of Mr. Gershkovich’s family and Wall Street Journal staff, according to The Journal, to note 100 days since Mr. Gershkovich, 31, was detained on a reporting trip in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg. Mr. Gershkovich has been held in Lefortovo, a notoriously harsh, high-security prison. He could face a 20-year sentence if he is convicted on what the U.S. government, The Journal and press freedom groups have said are bogus charges of espionage.

“The world knows that the charges against Evan are baseless,” the White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, told reporters on Friday.

Lynne M. Tracy, the U.S. ambassador to Russia visited Mr. Gershkovich at Lefortovo Prison in Moscow on Monday, the first meeting between the journalist and an American diplomatic official since April 17. Ms. Tracy said that Mr. Gershkovich was in “good health” and remained “strong, despite his circumstances.”

The United States considers both Mr. Gershkovich and Paul Whelan, a former Marine serving a 16-year sentence in Russia on espionage charges, to be “wrongfully detained” by Russia, a designation that is the equivalent of being a political hostage.

“Our message to Evan and to Paul is this: Keep the faith. We won’t stop until you are home,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said.

In a brief statement on Friday, Mr. Gershkovich’s family said support from around the world had been “overwhelming.”

“Every day that Evan isn’t home is another day too many,” the family said.

Michael Crowley contributed reporting.

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