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U.S. marks 1 year since Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was detained in Russia

March 29 was the anniversary of the 32-year-old American journalist's arrest on espionage charges.

Evan Gershkovich at a pretrial detention hearing in Moscow.
Evan Gershkovich at a pretrial detention hearing in Moscow. (Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP via Getty Images)

One year after Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was arrested in Russia and charged with espionage, journalists, news organizations and U.S. officials are marking the grim milestone by putting a spotlight on his detention and calling for his release.

“Today we mark a painful anniversary: one year of American journalist Evan Gershkovich’s wrongful detention in Russia,” President Biden said in a statement Friday. “Journalism is not a crime, and 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.

“Shortly after his wholly unjust and illegal detention, he drafted a letter to his family from prison, writing: ‘I am not losing hope.’” Biden added. “As I have told Evan’s parents, I will never give up hope either. We will continue working every day to secure his release.”

When was he arrested?

Evan Gershkovich is escorted out of court in Moscow in 2023.
Evan Gershkovich is escorted out of court in Moscow in 2023. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images)

Gershkovich, 32, was arrested by the Kremlin’s Federal Security Service while on assignment in Yekaterinburg, Russia, on March 29, 2023, and charged with espionage — the first journalist to be arrested on such charges since the Cold War. Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal and U.S. officials vehemently deny the allegation.

He has been held in Russia’s Lefortovo prison awaiting trial ever since. Earlier this week, a Russian court extended his pretrial detention until June 30. It is unclear when he will face trial.

U.S. considers him ‘wrongly detained’

Gershkovich at pre-rial detention hearing in Moscow in February.
Gershkovich, shown in February, has had his pretrial detention extended to June. (Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP via Getty Images)

Gershkovich is one of two Americans in Russia who the U.S. has designated as “wrongfully detained,” a special status that requires the Biden administration to work for his release. The other, Paul Whelan, a Michigan corporate security executive and former U.S. Marine from Michigan, has been held by Russia since 2018 and is serving a 16-year prison sentence on espionage charges.

“We will continue to denounce and impose costs for Russia’s appalling attempts to use Americans as bargaining chips,” Biden said Friday. “To Evan, to Paul Whelan and to all Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad: We are with you. And we will never stop working to bring you home.”

How the Wall Street Journal marked the anniversary

The Wall Street Journal printed a special front page on Friday in honor of Gershkovich with a large blank space below the headline, “His Story Should Be Here.”

The paper also published a letter from his family.

“This year has been unimaginable for our family in so many ways. It has felt like holding our breath,” the family said. “We have been living with a constant ache in our hearts thinking about Evan every moment of every day. We never anticipated this situation happening to our son and brother let alone a full year with no certainty or clear path forward. But despite this long battle, we are still standing strong.

“Thank you so much to everyone who is continually fighting for Evan and continuing to keep him in their thoughts and prayers,” the family added. “We don’t have words to truly convey how much it means to us. We will continue fighting for Evan’s freedom, whatever it takes.”

U.S. was reportedly working on deal to free Gershkovich and Whelan before Navalny’s death

Alexei Navalny makes a symbol of a heart during a court hearing in Moscow.
Alexei Navalny makes a symbol of a heart during a court hearing in Moscow in 2021. (Moscow City Court via AP)

In 2022, the Biden administration was able to secure WNBA player Brittney Griner’s release from Russia in a prisoner swap for Viktor Bout, a convicted arms dealer who had been serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States.

Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal reported that during an Oval Office meeting in February, Biden asked German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to consider releasing Vadim Krasikov, a Russian assassin serving a life sentence for murder in Germany, in a prisoner exchange that would have included Gershkovich, Whelan and Alexei Navalany, who was popular in Germany and an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But according to the Wall Street Journal, just days after the Kremlin learned of the idea “via a private intermediary,” Navalny was dead.

A banner is displayed in support of Gershkovich prior to a Premier League soccer match in London in 2023.
A banner is displayed in support of Gershkovich prior to a Premier League soccer match in London in 2023. (Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Thumbnail photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters, Wall Street Journal