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White House insists it ‘will do everything we can’ to bring home Russian-held Americans

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Monday that the Biden administration will do everything it can to bring home two Americans detained in Russia. 

“We will do everything we can to get Evan home,” Kirby said, referring to Evan Gershkovich, an American journalist for the Wall Street Journal who was detained last week on spying accusations.

“And Paul Whelan, by the way, that hasn’t stopped either,” Kirby said, referencing a former Marine who has been detained in Russia since 2018 on spying accusations.

“I don’t have anything in terms of details of what it would take specifically to negotiate with the Russians on his release,” Kirby said when asked if the U.S. knows what the Russians would want in exchange for the two Americans.

“And even if I did, this would the last forum that I would ever put anything out there on that,” Kirby said.

WNBA star Brittney Griner was freed in December through a prisoner swap after being detained for nearly 10 months. She was released in a one-for-one prisoner swap for Viktor Bout, an arms dealer sentenced in 2012 for various charges related to trafficking weapons and conspiring to kill Americans.

Kirby said it will take hard work to secure the release of Gershkovich.

“That doesn’t mean we’re going to shy away from it. We’ll do that work,” he said. “It’s got attention all the way up to the Oval Office in terms of how we can get him home.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov after Gershkovich was taken into custody and called on Moscow to immediately release him. He also demanded the release of Whelan.

“With every conversation we have with Russian officials, and Secretary Blinken did this too, we’re raising his case as well,” Kirby said, referring to Whelan’s case.

The national security spokesman said he doesn’t want to get ahead of the State Department when asked if Gershkovich is considered to have been wrongfully detained.

He also said the U.S. is still trying to get access to the journalist.

“You don’t have to have consular access to them to be able to make that determination,” he said in response to a question about whether Gershkovich had been wrongfully detained. “They are trying to get consular access to Evan very, very hard, and yet we’ve still not been able to do that. But that’s not going to hold up or affect the wrongful detention determination process.”

The administration has been working to gain access to Gershkovich since he was first arrested. 

Gershkovich was arrested by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), the main successor agency to the Soviet-era KGB, in Yekaterinburg, located in the Ural Mountains.

The Journal has rejected the allegations that Gershkovich was conducting espionage.

Source: The Hill

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