US Senate leaders demand release of WSJ journalist detained by Russia

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The Democratic and Republican leaders of the US Senate on Friday unanimously denounced the arrest by Russia of American journalist Evan Gershkovich on espionage charges and called for his immediate release.

Gershkovich’s arrest is seen as a serious escalation of Moscow’s crackdown on the media and comes as Moscow’s relationship with Washington has become increasingly tense because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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“We strongly condemn the wrongful detention of US citizen and Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, and demand the immediate release of this internationally known and respected independent journalist,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said in a rare joint statement.

Gershkovich, who worked for AFP in Russia before taking a job with the Journal, was formally charged with espionage in Moscow on Friday.

He was accused of spying for the United States, Russian news agencies reported, charges he, his paper and the US government vehemently deny. President Joe Biden has also called for Gershkovich’s release.

“Let there be no mistake: journalism is not a crime,” the Senate leaders wrote. “We demand the baseless, fabricated charges against Mr. Gershkovich be dropped and he be immediately released.”

Schumer and McConnell also reiterated their “condemnation of the Russian government’s continued attempts to intimidate, repress, and punish independent journalists and civil society voices.”

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