The White House on Dec. 5 revealed Moscow rejected a substantial deal aimed at freeing journalist Evan Gershkovich and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, two American citizens currently detained in Moscow.
"This was a new proposal in recent weeks. It was a significant proposal. And it was rejected by the Russians, but it does not, it will not deter us from continuing to do everything we can to try and bring both of them home." State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told journalists.
A Wall Street Journal reporter, Gershkovich was detained by Russia’s Federal Security Service in late March while on a reporting trip in the city of Yekaterinburg. He was covering the attitude of Russians to the war against Ukraine and the recruitment of residents in Russia's state-backed private mercenary Wagner Group.
Gershkovich has been reporting on Russia at the Journal's Moscow bureau since 2017. He was accredited to work as a journalist in Russia by the country's foreign ministry. Gershkovich previously worked for Agence France-Presse, The Moscow Times, and The New York Times.
The journalist is being held in pretrial detention on an allegation of espionage. Washington maintains the two Americans were wrongfully detained.
"They never should have been arrested in the first place. They should be released immediately," Miller said.
In Dec. 2022, Washington and Moscow traded WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner in a dramatic high-level prisoner exchange for convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout, dubbed “Merchant of Death” who had been held in a U.S. prison for 12 years.