US, Russia Negotiating Potential Prisoner Swap For Imprisoned WSJ Reporter

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by Tyler Durden
Monday, Jul 10, 2023 - 12:00 AM

The United States and Russia are in active talks over the case of imprisoned Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, with both sides having confirmed Friday that discussions over a potential prisoner swap are underway.

Starting last Tuesday the Kremlin announced that the two countries were "in contact over the possibility of a prisoner swap" - with Biden's national security adviser Jake Sullivan following up on Friday by confirming the talks, while also saying that "a clear pathway to a resolution" had yet to result. 

"There have been discussions, but those discussions have not produced a clear pathway to a resolution," Sullivan explained to reporters.

"All I can do is tell you that we have a clear commitment and conviction that we will do everything possible to bring him home," he said of Gershkovich, who is being held in a high-security prison in Yekaterinburg on charges of espionage.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre separately on Friday again blasted the spy charges. "The world knows that the charges against Evan are baseless," she said in a briefing. 

Despite the constant media attention that Brittney Griner's arrest and imprisonment received throughout last year, Gershkovich's case is much more serious, as he faces 20 years in prison. The FSB claimed he got caught "red-handed" in an attempt to obtain "information amounting to a state secret about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex."

But Griner was swapped for notorious Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout in what many Americans saw as a sham, one-sided deal in which Moscow clearly came out on top. It took an international manhunt of years and millions of US taxpayer dollars to nab Bout, after which he began serving a 25-year sentence in a federal prison in New York.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken starting in April had already declared Gershkovich to be "wrongfully detained" by Russia. This important change in an imprisoned American citizen's status to "wrongfully detained" means the US can legally approach the case as a hostage negotiation and thus use all available means to obtain their release, including potential prisoner swap. At this point, the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs is involved, utilizing interagency resources as well.

One all-important question remains: after previously forcing Washington's hand and obtaining the freedom of someone of the (infamous) level of Viktor Bout (merely for the WNBA's Griner and her cannabis vape pen), who will Russia ask for next?