House resolution calls for Russia to free Ivan Gershkovich and Paul Whelan

House resolution calls for Russia to free Ivan Gershkovich and Paul Whelan

The House has weighed in on whether to condemn Whelan’s detention in the past, but Tuesday’s resolution was the first time either chamber of Congress has officially called for Mr. Gershkovich’s release. The 422-to-0 vote in the House was a bipartisan statement that echoes and amplifies appeals made earlier by President Biden and other US officials, and helps keep Mr. Gershkovich’s case in the public eye.

The resolution uses his arrest to expose and condemn Russia’s habit of “detaining, imprisoning and otherwise intimidating journalists”.

It also expressed “continued support” for Mark Fogel, a US citizen arrested for trying to enter Russia with medical marijuana, and Vladimir Kara-Murza, a journalist and activist who holds Russian and British nationality. And it’s Mr. Biden, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Roger D. Carstens, Mr. Biden’s special envoy for hostage affairs, to press for the “immediate release” of Mr. Gershkovich in all negotiations with the Russian government.

Mr. Gershkovich, an American citizen and the son of Soviet-born Jews, Has been working as a correspondent in Russia since 2017, and was arrested while on assignment in the city of Yekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains. He is the first foreign correspondent since the Cold War to be accused of espionage, and is being held at the high-security Lefortovo prison in Moscow.

Mr. Gershkovich’s arrest came just months after a high-profile prisoner swap in which Brittany Griner, an American WNBA star and two-time Olympian who played for a Russian basketball team during the off-season, was released. Victor was released in exchange for the bout. , a Russian arms dealer. US officials tried and failed to secure Mr Whelan’s release in the deal.

Mr Whelan, who was working as a corporate security executive, was arrested at a Moscow hotel in 2018 moments after a Russian acquaintance handed him a USB stick. Mr Whelan, who holds American, Canadian, Irish and British passports, has insisted he was visiting Russia as a tourist, and was set up.

Resolution is a gesture primarily intended to inspire action by others. The difficult task required to secure the release of Mr. Gershkovich, Mr. Whelan and others is likely to be in private diplomatic relations between senior government representatives, following the pattern of past cases such as Ms. Griner’s.

His charges of carrying vape cartridges containing hashish oil into the country had to make their way through the Russian courts and resulted in a conviction before early release could be discussed.

It is not clear which Russian prisoners the Kremlin will seek in exchange for Mr. Gershkovich or Mr. Whelan or both. Mr Bout – known as a “merchant of death” and convicted of conspiracy to kill Americans in the United States – is believed to be the highest-ranking person in US custody before being traded for Ms Griner’s release. Price was a Russian prisoner.

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