‘Obscene’: Trump accused of using detained US reporter in Russia as ‘campaign ploy’

Donald Trump’s pledge that Evan Gershkovich, the American reporter imprisoned in Russia, will be released by Vladimir Putin assuming Trump wins November’s presidential election has been branded “obscene and disgusting” by a top journalist.

The former president first made the claim in May and repeated it in a campaign video posted to Truth Social this week, declaring: “Evan Gershkovich, the reporter for The Wall Street Journal who is being held by Russia, will be released almost immediately after the election.

“But definitely before I assume office, he will be home. He will be safe. Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, will do that for me. And I don’t believe he’ll do it for anyone else.

“And we will be paying nothing. Biden likes to pay massive numbers. We will be paying nothing. Thank you very much.”

Addressing the claim on MSNBC’s morning show Way Too Early in conversation with Jonathan Lemire, Eugene Robinson, associate editor of The Washington Post, said: “It’s obscene. It is absolutely obscene and disgusting that he would use this as some sort of a campaign ploy.”

The Pulitzer Prize-winner continued: “You know, the obvious question is, ‘Okay, if you could get Vladimir Putin to release Evan, do it. Do it now.’

“The idea that, ‘Oh, yeah, well, if you just vote for me, I will get him home,’ it’s just obscene, that’s the only word for it.”

Robinson added: “It does raise the question of what sort of communication he might or might not be having with Vladimir Putin, but he’s probably making it all up, sending a signal to Putin not to release Evan until after the election.”

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich has been jailed on what his paper insists are trumped up charges (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)
Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich has been jailed on what his paper insists are trumped up charges (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)

Lemire responded: “I totally agree, just reprehensible is another word that pops to mind.”

Gershkovich, 32, was detained in the city of Yekaterinburg by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) on espionage charges in March last year.

He has since spent well over a year in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, with no date set for a trial.

Gershkovich, his employer The Wall Street Journal and the US government all strenuously denied the charges levelled against him and any wrongdoing by the reporter, who had been granted full press credentials by Russia’s foreign ministry, according to his bosses.

Just days after the journalist’s arrest, President Joe Biden demanded that the Russian government “let him go”, which the Kremlin ignored, perhaps in the hope of a negotiating a further swap deal like that used to bring arms dealer Viktor Bout home in December 2022 in exchange for American basketball star Brittney Griner.