Biden Tells Russia to Release US Reporter

Daniil Berman, the lawyer of arrested Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, speaks to journalists near the Lefortovsky court, in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, March 30, 2023.

WASHINGTON (AFP-Jiji) — U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday called for Russia to release Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who is being held on espionage charges, while rebuffing a call from the paper’s editorial board to expel Russian journalists from the United States.

Asked by White House reporters what his message was to Russia regarding Gershkovich, a U.S. citizen, Biden said: “Let him go.”

The Wall Street Journal’s board of opinion editors called in a piece published Thursday afternoon for the expulsion of Russia’s ambassador to the United States, as well as “all Russian journalists working here,” describing the move as “the minimum to expect.”

“The timing of the arrest looks like a calculated provocation to embarrass the U.S. and intimidate the foreign press still working in Russia,” it added.

The Journal’s editor in chief, Emma Tucker, sent a note to the newspaper’s staff Friday, saying that “we will carry on doing everything in our power to secure Evan’s release.”

“Your safety and security are what matters most to me, and we will continue to protect that no matter where you may be reporting from,” she added.

Speaking to reporters before leaving to view tornado damage in Mississippi, Biden said that expelling Russian journalists was “not the plan right now.”

Gershkovich is believed to be the first foreign journalist held for spying in post-Soviet Russia, and his arrest is expected to escalate the Kremlin’s confrontation with the West amid Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, responding to the editorial board’s demand that all Russian journalists be expelled, said “the newspaper can say that, but it should not happen. There’s just no reason for this.”

He said that Gershkovich had been caught “red-handed.”