Washington could consider a swap deal involving Russian nationals arrested in third countries, according to the Wall Street Journal
The US is prepared to take an unorthodox approach to securing the release of Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reporter Evan Gershkovich, arrested in Russia, as it scrambles to find suitable candidates for a prisoner exchange , the newspaper reported on Saturday.
Washington currently has no English spies in his custody, the WSJ explained, and since Gershkovich is accused of espionage, Moscow may view an exchange with any other prisoner as unequal.
A senior White House official told the WSJ that Washington was “open to creative solutions” to secure Gershkovich’s surrender, along with Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine convicted of spying in Russia in 2020.
“In what is legally available, we are constantly looking to see what might be relevant or what might be useful,” said the official. According to the WSJ, Moscow previously told Washington it would only trade Whelan for a Russian person charged with a similar offense abroad. Russia previously reportedly offered to swap him for Vadim Krasikov, a man sentenced to life in prison in Germany for murder. At the time, Washington considered an agreement involving a third country impossible, but would have changed its position.
The WSJ named two alleged Russian spies arrested in Slovenia in December, as well as Sergey Cherkasov, a Russian sentenced to 15 years in prison in Brazil for identity theft, as potential candidates for the exchange. Cherkasov has also been accused by Brazilian authorities of being a Russian agent, and Moscow has asked Brazil to extradite him from Russia. The United States has also reportedly indicated it may seek his extradition, the WSJ reported.
The newspaper also cited Marat Kasem, a Russian editor accused of spying and dodging sanctions in Latvia, as a potential match for a successful exchange. However, the WSJ did not elaborate on how the United States could potentially secure a deal involving any of these nations. He only said there was “No sign” that would be an easy thing to do.
The most high-profile Russians remaining behind bars in the United States have all been charged with cybercrimes, the WSJ said.
One of them is Roman Seleznev, the son of a Russian lawmaker convicted in 2016 of hacking into hundreds of companies and selling stolen data online in a scheme that led to losses of over $169 million. The man should not be released until 2036. According to his lawyer, Igor Litvak, Moscow considers that Seleznev was wrongfully delayed and would like him back. “really bad.”
Other options include Vladislav Klyushin and Aleksandr Vinnik. Klyushin is a Russian who was extradited from Switzerland to the United States in 2021 and accused of obtaining $90 million through securities transactions based on information stolen from American computer networks. Vinnik was detained in 2017, first in Greece and then in France, before being extradited to the United States for running an illicit cryptocurrency exchange.
You can share this story on social media: