Russian dictator Vladimir Putin said on Dec. 14 that he would be open to returning jailed U.S. citizens, including Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who has been detained since March.
"We have contacts on this matter with our American partners, there’s a dialogue on this issue, Putin said during his live televised press conference. "But, I repeat, the American side must hear us and make a decision that will satisfy the Russian side as well.”
Putin's comments came on the same day as a Moscow court ruled to extend Gershkovich's pre-trial detention for another six weeks.
Gershkovich was arrested in Yekaterinburg in late March while working on a story about the Wagner mercenary group recruiting locals, as well as Russian citizens' views on the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Russia accused him of espionage, which both the U.S. government and the Wall Street Journal vehemently deny. Espionage in Russia carries a maximum prison term of up to 20 years.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said on Dec. 5 that Russia had rejected a substantial deal aimed at freeing Gershkovich and another imprisoned U.S. citizen, Paul Whelan.
Russia has also jailed Alsu Kurmasheva, an RFE/RL journalist with dual Russian and U.S. citizenship, on charges of failing to identify as a foreign agent.
Kurmasheva's pre-trial detention has also been extended several times.
Her arrest and extended pre-trial detention have been widely condemned by RFE/RL, the European Union, Western nations, and a wide variety of NGOs, including the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Amnesty International, and others.