Prisoner exchange | Russia awaits an American “response” to its “ideas”

Prisoner exchange | Russia awaits an American “response” to its “ideas”
Prisoner exchange | Russia awaits an American “response” to its “ideas”

(Moscow) Russia announced on Wednesday that it was awaiting a response from the United States to its “ideas” for an exchange of prisoners, comments coming one week before the start of the trial for “espionage” of American journalist Evan Gershkovich, incarcerated for 15 months .



Updated yesterday at 12:16 p.m.

This 32-year-old reporter is due to be tried starting June 26 in Yekaterinburg. The Russian authorities had already admitted to negotiating an exchange which would allow the release of Mr. Gershkovich whom they present as being a spy for the CIA, which the United States, his relatives and his employer, the daily The Wall Street Journalreject, emphasizing that he was arrested in the middle of reporting.

Questioned by the TASS news agency, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov revealed for the first time that Moscow had made a proposal to Washington, but he did not want to provide further details.

“The ball is in the court of the United States and we expect them to respond to the ideas that have been presented to them,” said Mr. Riabkov, ensuring that the American authorities were fully informed.

“I understand that there may be something in these ideas that does not sit well with Americans. That’s their problem. We believe that our approach is fully justified, sensible and balanced,” the diplomat insisted.

Evan Gershkovich, who also previously worked for the AFP in Moscow, faces 20 years in prison for having, according to the prosecution, collected information on behalf of the CIA on Uralvagonzavod, one of the largest arms manufacturers from Russia.

Ouralvagonzavod notably produces T-90 tanks used in Ukraine and the new generation Armata tank, as well as freight wagons.

The Russian government has never substantiated its accusations, the entire file having been classified secret.

Mr. Gershkovich had worked for years in Russia and was accredited to the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Moscow wants a killer

Russian President Vladimir Putin had already acknowledged that negotiations were underway for a prisoner exchange and implied that he wanted the release of Vadim Krassikov, sentenced to life in prison in Germany for having murdered in Berlin in 2019, on behalf of Russian security services, a former Chechen separatist commander.

Attempts to reach such an agreement could, however, have taken a more complicated turn since the death in February in prison of Russian opponent Alexeï Navalny who, according to his entourage, was also part of an exchange project currently being negotiated. .

Several other Americans are in prison in Russia, including Paul Whelan, a former soldier who was arrested in 2018 and then sentenced to 16 years in prison for espionage. Washington, Mr. Whelan and his family deny these accusations.

“Paul has been taken hostage for 2000 days by the Russian government,” noted David, his brother, in a press release sent to AFP on Wednesday, while denouncing “the false promises” and “the false hopes” of the House- Blanche, who assured at the end of 2022 to redouble her efforts to obtain her release.

“Paul’s case does not seem to be a priority,” lamented David Whelan in this message.

Russia also detains Russian-American journalist Alsu Kurmasheva, arrested on its soil in October 2023 during a private trip. She is accused of not having registered as a “foreign agent” and of having discredited the Russian army and its offensive in Ukraine.

On Wednesday, an American soldier was also sentenced in Russia to three years and nine months of imprisonment, for having, according to the authorities, uttered death threats against his Russian girlfriend whom he also allegedly stole.

A spokesperson for the State Department said Wednesday that it was aware of this latest affair, but did not comment on its merits, only recalling “the danger” to which American citizens who are on the territory are exposed. Russian.

Washington and Moscow have carried out several prisoner exchanges in the past, despite relations at rock bottom.

Thus, Brittney Griner, an American basketball star imprisoned for several months in Russia for a cannabis affair, was exchanged in December 2022 for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, detained for ten years in the United States.

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