Washington/Moscow: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a phone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, demanded the immediate release of Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich, in custody over espionage, and US citizen Paul Whelan, serving a prison term in Russia on espionage charges since 2018, the US State Department said on Sunday.
“Secretary Blinken conveyed the United States’ grave concern over Russia’s unacceptable detention of a U.S. citizen journalist. The secretary called for his immediate release. Secretary Blinken further urged the Kremlin to immediately release wrongfully detained U.S. citizen Paul Whelan,” the department said in a statement.
The two diplomats also discussed the further work of their diplomatic missions. “The Secretary and Foreign Minister Lavrov also discussed the importance of creating an environment that permits diplomatic missions to carry out their work,” the statement read.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made it clear that journalist Evan Gershkovich’s fate will be decided by the court. “The attention of Antony Blinken was drawn to the need to respect the decisions of the Russian authorities taken in accordance with the legislation and Russia’s international obligations,” the statement read.
“Lavrov emphasized that Evan Gershkovich was caught red-handed trying to obtain secret information by collecting data that constituted state secrets under the cover of his journalist status … in light of the facts of the illegal activities of the US citizen, whose arrest was duly made known to the US Embassy in Moscow, his fate will be determined by the court.”