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Congressional leaders mark year since Evan Gershkovich’s detainment

The top four leaders in Congress issued a joint statement on Friday marking one year of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich’s wrongful detainment in Russia and calling for his release, in a rare moment of bipartisan unity in Washington.

Gershkovich, a 32-year-old American citizen, was arrested in late March 2023 while on a reporting trip and faces espionage charges. Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal and the U.S. government have vehemently denied the allegations. A Moscow court has again extended his detention until at least late June.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said in the statement that they “continue to condemn his baseless arrest, fabricated charges, and unjust imprisonment.”

“Journalism is not a crime, and reporters are not bargaining chips. The Kremlin’s attempts to silence Evan and intimidate other Western reporters will not impede the pursuit of truth,” they added.

The group also explicitly spoke out against Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying he “is restoring Soviet-style control through repression at home and aggression abroad.”

Earlier Friday, President Biden issued a statement calling the day “a painful anniversary” and vowing to continue to work to secure Gershkovich’s release.

“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,” Biden said.

Biden told reporters Friday afternoon that he is not “giving up” on Gershkovich’s case, saying, “I admire the hell out of him.”

The president and the congressional leaders also expressed support for Paul Whelan, a former Marine who was sentenced to 16 years in a Russian prison in 2020 after being convicted of spying, as well as other Americans wrongfully detained abroad.

Gershkovich’s arrest marked the first time an American journalist had been accused of espionage in Russia since the Cold War. Analysts believe Russia may be using Americans as bargaining chips with the U.S. government over Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Amy B Wang contributed to this report.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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