The United States confirmed on Friday that it is in talks with Russia about a possible prisoner exchange for Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, but warned that the discussions have not yet produced “a clear path to a resolution.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitri S. Peskov said this week that the two countries are in contact about the possibility of an exchange. President Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, confirmed the Kremlin’s remarks on Friday, but said he did not want to give “false hope.”
“There have been discussions, but those discussions have not produced a clear path to a resolution,” Mr. Sullivan told reporters, adding that the United States 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 we can to bring him home.”
Mr. Sullivan met with members of Mr. Gershkovich’s family and Wall Street Journal staff, according to The Journal, to mark 100 days since Mr. Gershkovich, 31, was arrested during a reporting trip in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg. Mr. Gershkovich was held in Lefortovo, a notoriously harsh, high-security prison. He could face a 20-year sentence if convicted on what the U.S. government, The Journal and press freedom groups have said are bogus espionage charges.
“The world knows that the allegations against Evan are baseless,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Friday.
Lynne M. Tracy, the US ambassador to Russia, visited Mr. Gershkovich in Lefortovo prison in Moscow on Monday, the first meeting between the journalist and a US diplomatic official since April 17. Ms Tracy said 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 Paul is this: Keep the faith. We won’t stop until you’re home,” said Ms. Jean-Pierre.
In a brief statement on Friday, Mr Gershkovich’s family said support from around the world had been “overwhelming”.
“Every day that Evan is not home is another day too many,” the family said.
Michael Crowley contributed reporting.