Washington — A bipartisan group of senators wrote a letter to Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, expressing their “profound anger and concern” over his detention in Russia.
“We hope this letter makes clear our support and solidarity on your behalf and our desire that you and fellow detainee Paul Whelan are immediately and unconditionally released,” the group of 32 senators wrote, saying that the Russian government was using Gershkovich as a “political tool.”
Gershkovich was arrested in March on accusations of spying, making him the first U.S. journalist to be arrested on espionage charges in Russia in decades. The U.S. and the Wall Street Journal have vehemently denied the allegations and have called for his immediate release.
Last month, a Russian court extended his detention for at least another three months.
“We believe that a free press is crucial to the foundation and support of human rights everywhere,” the letter said. “We applaud you for your efforts to report the truth about Russia’s reprehensible invasion of Ukraine, a conflict that has resulted in untellable atrocities, tragedies, and loss of life.”
Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware and Republican Sen. James Risch of Idaho initiated the letter, which also said that every day that Gershkovich spends in a Russian prison “is a day too long.”
“Since your arrest, we have advocated for your release publicly and privately. We will not stop until you are safely home,” it said. “Please know that the support for you and Paul go well beyond the walls of the United States Senate, and that the American people are with us in demanding your release.”
On Tuesday, the House unanimously passed a resolution calling on the Russian government to release Gershkovich. The resolution is not a binding law, but amplifies that the Biden administration has congressional support in securing Gershkovich’s release.
“Vladimir Putin knows that a free press is a pillar of democracy, that a strong Fourth Estate will hold officials accountable,” Republican Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas said Monday on the House floor. “So he arrested Evan with the intention of not only silencing him, but of scaring other journalists to remain silent, too.”
McCaul said it “must be made clear that the use of American citizens as political pawns will not go unpunished.”
The U.S. is also seeking the release of Whelan, who is serving a 16-year sentence on espionage charges, which the U.S. also denies.
The U.S. considers both men to be wrongfully detained, a rare designation that puts the full force of the U.S. government behind securing their release.
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