Putin proposes to exchange a Wall Street Journal reporter for a Russian prisoner
US journalist Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested in Russia on treason charges, is taken out of the Lefortovsky Court building in Moscow on January 26, 2024.
Alexander Nemenov | Afp | Getty Images
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that “a deal can be reached” on the release of detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, signaling he is open to a prisoner swap. A Russian serving time in Germany.
Putin’s comments were translated by the team of former Fox News correspondent Tucker Carlson, who conducted the first interview with a Kremlin leader by Western media since Moscow invaded Ukraine in 2022. The exchange also covered two hours. Putin’s views on history, the source. of the war in Ukraine, geopolitics and artificial intelligence.
Putin did not call for an outright swap, but indirectly compared the case of Gershkovich, 32, to the case of “a person serving a sentence in a country allied to the US” who “caused feelings of patriotism.” country, from a thief in one of the European capitals.”
This appears to be a reference to Vadim Krasikov, a Russian hitman who was convicted by a German court of killing former Chechen dissident Zelimkhan Khangoshvili at close range in Berlin in August 2019.
In Krasikov’s trial, the German prosecution concluded that the crime was “committed on behalf of the state authorities of the Russian Federation,” according to a statement translated by Google.
“Whether he did it of his own free will or not. That’s a different question,” Putin said Thursday of the unnamed killer.
“At the end of the day, it doesn’t make sense to hold on [Gershkovich] in prison in Russia. We want the US Special Services to think about how they can contribute to achieving the goals that our special services seek. We are ready to talk,” Putin said, repeatedly indicating that talks about the journalist’s future were ongoing.
The Wall Street Journal strongly denies the treason charges brought against Gershkovich, the paper’s Russian correspondent, and says he was in Yekaterinburg on a trip valid statement before his imprisonment in March 2023.
Washington and Moscow are no strangers to prisoner exchanges. In December 2022, American basketball player Brittney Griner, who was convicted in Russia of drug smuggling, was released in exchange for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who was arrested in Thailand and he was extradited to the US
The U.S. State Department and Germany’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on whether Washington or Berlin would be amenable to such a deal.
Putin alleges that Gershkovich, whose pre-trial detention was extended by two months at the end of January, was caught “red-handed” while receiving classified information in a “conspiratorial manner” .” The president of Russia admitted on Thursday that he does not know which group the journalist was working for.
“He was receiving secret, secret information, and he did it secretly. Maybe he did it out of carelessness or on his own initiative,” said Putin.
The Wall Street Journal has repeatedly insisted that Gershkovich has not broken the law.
“Evan is a journalist, and journalism is not a crime. Any other view is complete fiction. Evan was unjustly arrested and wrongfully detained by Russia for nearly a year for his role, and we continue to demand his immediate release. “, the newspaper said in response to Putin’s comments.
“We are encouraged to see Russia’s desire for a deal that will bring Evan home, and we hope this leads to his speedy release and return to his family and our newsroom .
Gershkovich is not the only journalist with ties to the US to face the punitive fear of the Kremlin justice system. Earlier this month, a Russian court extended the pretrial detention of Russian-American citizen Alsu Kurmasheva, a reporter for Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, on charges of violating a law on “foreign agents ,” according to Reuters.
Moscow has clamped down firmly on journalists through a series of wartime censorship laws introduced shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine. Current policies criminalize disparaging the Russian military or deliberately disinformation about the war. Several Western news outlets have closed local bureaus and pulled their reporters out of Russia as a result, citing safety concerns.