Lavrov: White House has called Kremlin to seek release of Gershkovich and Whelan

(Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that White House officials had requested the release of detained Americans Evan Gershkovich and Paul Whelan in conversations with a Kremlin official.

In an interview with a Russian TV channel, Lavrov said White House officials "sometimes call" Yury Ushakov, a presidential aide specialising in foreign affairs, and send "one and the same signal" demanding the release of the two men.

He did not say how Ushakov responded.

Wall Street Journal reporter Gershkovich was arrested on March on suspicion of spying, which he and his newspaper deny.

Whelan, a former U.S. marine, was arrested in December 2018, held for 18 months in Lefortovo prison in Moscow, and jailed for 16 years in June 2020 on spying charges. He too has denied the accusations, and Washington has designated both men as "wrongfully detained".

Lavrov's deputy, Sergei Ryabkov, last week accused the United States of exerting "pressure and threats" on Moscow over the Gershkovich case, and said Russia would ignore such tactics.

(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Kevin Liffey)