Russia hints at “contacts in progress” with U.S. on potential prisoner swap

Washington — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s top spokesman said Tuesday that there has been contact between the U.S. and Russia about a possible prisoner swap that could involve Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich. 

The U.S. is seeking the release of the American journalist and Paul Whelan, both of whom are considered “wrongfully detained.” They have vehemently denied the espionage charges against them. 

“We have already stated that there are certain contacts in progress regarding this issue, but we do not want to make them public. They must be followed and maintained in complete silence,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said at a press briefing, according to Russian state media outlet TASS. 

Peskov’s comments came in response to a question about whether dialogue between Moscow and Washington on a potential prisoner swap was possible, after the U.S. ambassador was allowed to visit Gershkovich in prison for the first time since April. 

Ambassador Lynne Tracy met with the detained reporter at Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo prison on Monday, following months of protests by the U.S. over the denial of diplomatic access to him. 

A State Department spokesperson told CBS News on Monday that Gershkovich “is in good health and remains strong, despite his circumstances.”

“U.S. Embassy officials will continue to provide all appropriate support to Mr. Gershkovich and his family, and we expect Russian authorities to provide continued consular access,” the spokesperson said. 

The State Department pointed to that statement when asked about Peskov’s comments on Tuesday.

The U.S. has said that Russia has so far been unwilling to discuss Gershkovich’s potential release and likely would not until he is convicted. Gershkovich, who was arrested in March, does not yet have a trial date. 

“They’re not willing to really talk to us about him yet,” Roger Carstens, the special presidential envoy for hostage affairs at the State Department, said last week. “The Russians might play this out in a long, drawn-out trial process. And after a conviction, if he is convicted, I assume he will be, it’ll be time to negotiate his release.” 


  • Evan Gershkovich
  • Russia

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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