Biden “serious” about prisoner swap to free Evan Gershkovich

Washington — President Biden said he’s “serious” about securing the release of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who is detained in Russia, through a prisoner swap. 

“I’m serious about a prisoner exchange,” Mr. Biden said Thursday during a news conference in Helsinki, Finland. “I’m serious about doing all we can to free Americans being illegally held in Russia or anywhere else for that matter, and that process is underway.”

The U.S. has designated Gershkovich, who was arrested in March on espionage charges, as “wrongfully detained.” Russia has not provided any evidence to support the charges, which Gershkovich and his employer have vehemently denied. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s top spokesman said in early July that there had been contact between the U.S. and Russia about a possible prisoner swap that could involve Gershkovich. But he said any negotiations should not be made public. 

Mr. Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan confirmed last week that “discussions” had occurred, but he did “not want to give false hope.” 

“Those discussions have not produced a clear pathway to a resolution, and so I cannot stand here today and tell you that we have a clear answer to how we are going to get Evan home,” Sullivan said Friday. 

The U.S. is also seeking the release of Paul Whelan, who has been detained in Russia since December 2018 and is serving a 16-year prison sentence. The U.S. also considers him “wrongfully detained.” 

Gershkovich’s sister, Danielle, said Thursday at the National Press Club that her family is trying to stay strong. 

“I just try to take it day by day,” she said. “It still feels unreal sometimes. For my parents, it’s a full-time job.”

Gershkovich’s parents, who fled the Soviet Union in 1979, have traveled to Russia twice since his arrest to briefly see him before his court hearings. 

Danielle Gershkovich said she receives letters from her brother about once a week. 

“I’m so proud of him,” she said. “I don’t know how he is staying so brave, but it means that I have to stay brave for him too.” 

Caitlin Yilek

Caitlin Yilek is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital. Reach her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter:

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