Wall Street Journal reporter held for year in Russia as US pushes for release

Today marks one year since the detention of US journalist Evan Gershkovich in Russia. Here, ITV News' Charlie Frost reports on the efforts to secure his release

On the one-year anniversary of the detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, Joe Biden said the US is working "every day" to secure his release from Russia. “Journalism is not a crime, and Evan went to Russia to do his job as a reporter — risking his safety to shine the light of truth on Russia’s brutal aggression against Ukraine,” the president said today. Mr Gershkovich was arrested while on a reporting trip to the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg.

Russia's Federal Security Service, or FSB, alleges he was acting on US orders to collect state secrets, but provided no evidence to support the accusation.

He, the Journal and the US government deny the claim, and Washington has designated him as wrongfully detained.

On Friday, there was a giant blank space on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, with an image at the top of the page of Mr Gershkovich in the newspaper's signature pencil drawing and a headline that read: “His Story Should be Here.”

A recent court hearing offered little new information on Mr Gershkovich's case. He was ordered to remain behind bars pending trial at least until June 30, the fifth extension of his detention. But the periodic court hearings at least give Mr Gershkovich’s family and friends and US officials a glimpse of him. For the 32-year-old journalist, it’s a break from his otherwise largely monotonous prison routine. In a statement, Mr Biden said: “We will continue working every day to secure his release. We will continue to denounce and impose costs for Russia’s appalling attempts to use Americans as bargaining chips.

"And we will continue to stand strong against all those who seek to attack the press or target journalists — the pillars of free society." Biden said that the US was working to free all Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad. Another American accused of espionage is Paul Whelan, a corporate executive from Michigan. He was arrested in 2018 in Russia and sentenced two years later to 16 years in prison.

Mr Whelan, who said he traveled to Moscow to attend a friend’s wedding, has maintained his innocence and said the charges against him were fabricated.

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