Russia says awaits US response to prisoner swap proposals

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Russia said Wednesday it was waiting for the United States to respond to its propositions regarding a prisoner swap, days before US reporter Evan Gershkovich was set to face trial in Russia.

Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter, was arrested in March 2023 on espionage charges rejected by his family, employer and the White House as false.

President Vladimir Putin said in February that talks on a prisoner swap involving the journalist were underway, but the Kremlin has not given any details on the progress of the negotiations.

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“The ball is in the court of the United States, we are waiting for them to respond to the ideas that were presented to them,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Russia’s state TASS news agency in an interview.

“They are well known to the relevant parts of the US administration. I understand that, perhaps, something in these ideas does not suit the Americans. That’s their problem,” he added.

Gershkovich is set to face a secretive trial in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg on June 26 and could face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.

Washington has accused Moscow of arresting its citizens on baseless charges to use them as bargaining chips to secure the release of Russians convicted abroad.

Among other US nationals detained in Russia is reporter Alsu Kurmasheva, detained last year for failing to register as a “foreign agent.” Her employers denounced the case against her as politically motivated.

Former US marine Paul Whelan, in prison in Russia since 2018 and serving a 16-year sentence on espionage charges, is also pushing to be included in any future prisoner exchange.

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