On April 2, the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for the “immediate release” of the detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich and U.S. citizen Paul Whelan during his phone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
This was their fist phone call since July.
According to the U.S. State Department, Blinken “conveyed the United States’ grave concern over Russia’s unacceptable detention of a U.S. citizen, journalist.”
Gershkovich was arrested in the city of Yekaterinburg while working on a story about the Wagner mercenary group recruiting local residents, as well as Russian citizens' views on the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Gershkovich received the proper press accreditation to work as a journalist in Russia. Now, he's accused by Moscow of being a spy.
Following his arrest, Blinken also called on American citizens to leave Russia.
According to CNN, Whelan is serving out a 16-year prison sentence for the same charges as Gershkovich, “which he strongly denies.” He was detained in 2018.
During their April 2 phone call, Blinken and Lavrov also discussed the “importance of creating an environment that permits diplomatic missions to carry out their work,” according to the U.S. State Department.
The two officials met for the first time since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on March 2 at the New Dehli G20 summit.
According to CNN, their meeting lasted only ten minutes, during which Blinken stressed once again that the U.S. will continue supporting Ukraine “for as long as it takes.”