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Evan Gershkovich: US ‘working every day’ to free US journalist held in Russia, Joe Biden says | US News

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President Joe Biden has said the US is “working every day” to secure the release of a US journalist, detained in Russia for a year.

Evan Gershkovich, 32, was arrested on suspicion of spying while reporting in the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg on 29 March 2023.

The Wall Street Journal reporter was accused of stealing state secrets by Russian intelligence officials, who provided no evidence to support the charge.

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Mr Gershkovich and his newspaper deny the accusation, as does the US government, which has classified him as wrongfully detained.

Mr Biden said in a statement on 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.

“We will continue working every day to secure his release.

“We will continue to denounce and impose costs for Russia’s appalling attempts to use Americans as bargaining chips. And we will continue to stand strong against all those who seek to attack the press or target journalists – the pillars of free society.”

The Journal marked the one-year anniversary of his detention with a giant blank space on its front page with a drawing of the journalist in its signature pencil alongside a headline that read: His Story Should be Here.

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On Tuesday, his detention was extended for the fifth time, meaning he will remain in jail until at least 30 June, pending trial.

He became the first US journalist arrested on spying charges in Russia since the Cold War when he was detained by the Federal Security Service (FSB).

Mr Biden said the US was working to free all Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad, including businessman Paul Whelan, who is serving a 16-year sentence in Russia for spying, but maintained he was in Moscow for a friend’s wedding.

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US secretary of state Antony Blinken said in a statement: “People are not bargaining chips. Russia should… immediately release Evan and Paul.”

On Friday, a Russian journalist who reported on the trials of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny and other dissidents was ordered to remain in custody by a court in Moscow.

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Mr Navalny, one of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critics, died in an Arctic Circle penal colony last month.

Antonina Favorskaya, also identified by court officials as Antonina Kravtsova, was arrested earlier this month on charges of extremism.

Moscow’s Basmanny District Court ordered that she remain in pre-trial detention at least until 28 May.

She could face up to six years in jail if convicted.

She was one of six journalists detained across Russia this month, media freedom organization Reporters Without Borders said on Thursday.

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