In a rare conversation with his Russian counterpart, Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for Moscow to immediately release Evan Gershkovich, an American journalist who was detained on spying accusations.
Blinken spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov after Gershkovich, 31, was taken into custody, the State Department said on Sunday. The detention of Gershkovich, who works for The Wall Street Journal, sparked an outpouring of support from news outlets and media organizations.
“Secretary Blinken conveyed the United States’ grave concern over Russia’s unacceptable detention of a U.S. citizen journalist,” a readout of the call between the two officials said. “The Secretary called for his immediate release.”
Blinken also demanded the release of Paul Whelan, a former Marine who has been detained in Russia since 2018 on spying accusations.
The phone call between the top diplomats of the U.S. and Russia was a rare occurrence as diplomatic relations between Washington and Moscow have chilled even further since the Russian invasion of Ukraine early last year.
The U.S. has worked to free American citizens that have been detained in Russia including WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was held in Russia for over 10 months and handed a nine-year prison sentence for allegedly having a small amount of hashish oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow. Griner was released in a prisoner swap between the two countries late last year.
Griner spoke out over the weekend, saying she was concerned for Gershkovich as he faced detainment in Russia.
“Our hearts are filled with great concern for Evan Gershkovich and his family since Evan’s detainment in Russia,” Griner said in a statement with her wife posted on Instagram Saturday. “We must do everything in our power to bring him and all Americans home.”
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