US President Joe Biden on Tuesday called Russia’s jailing of US journalist Evan Gershkovich for espionage “off limits”.
Biden, who made the comments as he left Washington for a trip to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, also told reporters that the Wall Street Journal correspondent’s imprisonment was “completely unlawful.”
The US president said he tried unsuccessfully on Monday to contact Gershkovich’s family and would now “try them from the plane”.
On Monday, the State Department officially classified the journalist as “wrongfully detained” – a status that puts the matter in the hands of US Special Envoy for Hostages Roger Carstens.
Gershkovich, a veteran Wall Street Journal reporter in Russia, was detained in Russia’s fourth-largest city, Yekaterinburg. He is currently being held in the notorious Lefortovo prison in Moscow, where he is expected to remain pending trial on May 29.
Although Gershkovich’s arrest took place almost two weeks ago, US embassy staff in Moscow said they had still not been allowed to meet him, which they often had. with US citizens arrested in Russia in the past.
Last week, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Russia would grant consular access to the journalist in due course.
Russian news agencies reported on Friday that Gershkovich had been accused of espionage, an allegation denied by both the Wall Street Journal and Gershkovich himself.