Prisoner swap could set NJ native free from Russian gulag
🔺 Evan Gershkovich was detained on espionage charges in Russia in March
🔺 The U.S. government declared him "wrongfully detained"
🔺 Signs point to a possible prisoner swap that could set Gershkovich free
A possible prisoner swap with Russia could bring a New Jersey native home to the U.S.
Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was detained on espionage charges in March and has been held in the notoriously harsh Lefortovo prison in Moscow.
Both the Journal and the U.S. government have denied any allegations of spying.
While the Biden Administration has demanded Gershkovich's release, there have also been rumors of a possible prisoner swap. It was not clear how serious talks could be given the poor state of relations between Russian President Vladamir Putin and the U.S. since Putin's invasion of Ukraine.
However, a Kremlin spokesman on Tuesday confirmed "there have been certain contacts on the subject."
The spokesman would not go into detail, and insisted any such talks would be carried out in private.
Two additional developments gave hope a potential deal is in the works.
CBS News reported the U.S. Ambassador to Moscow was allowed to visit with Gershkovich for the first time on Monday.
At the same time, Russian diplomats were allowed to see a Russian citizen who has been jailed in Ohio on cybercrime charges since 2021. Vladamir Dunaev was arrested and extradited from South Korea, according to CBS.
The U.S. State Department did not provide any details about either visit.
Gershkovich is the first American reporter to be charged with spying since the Cold War era in 1986.
Russia has never provided any evidence supporting the allegations against the 31-year-old reporter, yet has kept him jailed since his arrest in the city of Yekaterinburg.
Gershkovich's attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, before beginning a career in journalism. At Bowdoin he was a member of the men's soccer team. He attended Princeton High School and was a member of the Class of 2010, according to his team bio.
Gershkovich played club soccer for Princeton Union, where he helped to lead the team to the New Jersey State Championship and Region I Semifinals in 2007.
"Hearing of Evan Gershkovich's detention is very troubling. While we treasure freedom of the press here in the United States, that is not true everywhere," Princeton Mayor Mark Freda told New Jersey 101.5 at the time of his arrest. "Our thoughts are with Evan, and his family. And hopefully what appears to be a politically motivated act ends soon and he regains his freedom again."
Gov. Phil Murphy in a tweet said he was "outraged" by the action.
"The Putin regime is brazenly targeting American citizens. We will do everything in our power to help bring Evan home," Murphy said.
Previous reporting from Dan Alexander was used in this story.
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