The Biden administration has offered a major prisoner swap for the release of detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich and ex-Marine Paul Whelan, the latter who has been locked up for years at this point.
As for Gershkovich, he's reached 250 days of pre-trial confinement, after his arrest on spy charges last March. "In recent weeks, we made a new and significant proposal to secure Paul and Evan’s release," State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a briefing Tuesday. "That proposal was rejected by Russia."
Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal acknowledged of efforts to free Gershkovich, "The passage of time dictates that we work harder than ever to sustain our efforts until Evan is free." It's as yet unknown precisely what prisoner or prisoners may have been offered to Moscow, or whether the offer took another form, such as some level of sanctions relief (which remains unlikely).
Further, an unnamed US official was cited in the WSJ as confirming the State Department is "constantly discussing this issue with third countries who can assist."
Apparently this has included the US administration getting creative in terms of seeking ideas for a swap significant enough that Moscow would find it attractive:
Moscow has said it is acting in accordance with its own laws.
Earlier this year, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. had made a significant proposal for Whelan, a 53-year-old former U.S. Marine who wasn’t included on two previous occasions when the U.S. was able to bring home the Americans Trevor Reed and Brittney Griner in prisoner exchanges that resulted in the release of Russians Konstantin Yaroshenko and Viktor Bout.
Since those deals were conducted, Russia hasn’t shown any signs of interest in the release of other Russian citizens in U.S. custody, prompting U.S. officials to eye Russian citizens held elsewhere in the world as possible elements in any exchange.
The White House has previously denounced the spy charges against Gershkovich as "ridiculous" and "totally illegal" - and moved quickly to designate him as unlawfully detained. This paved the way legally for hostage negotiations.
Gershkovich had reportedly been looking into a story related to a major state-backed defense technology firm, and his case marks the first American journalist to be held on spy charges since the Cold War.
As for Whelan, he's been locked up in Russia for much longer, having been convicted of espionage back in 2020, for which he's now serving a 16-year sentence. School teacher Marc Fogel, arrested for drug-related charges in circumstances very similar to WNBA star Brittney Griner's case, has also not seen progress on his release. Their families expressed regret and outrage that US media had been so focused on Griner's case, which ultimately led to her release.