President Biden said on Thursday that he was “serious” about negotiating a prisoner exchange to free Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal reporter that the United States has declared “wrongfully detained” in Russia.
“I’m serious about doing all we can to free Americans who are being illegally held in Russia — or anywhere else, for that matter,” he said. “And that process is underway.”
Mr. Biden addressed Mr. Gershkovich’s situation in a news conference with the Finnish president, Sauli Niinisto, in Helsinki.
Last week, President Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, confirmed that the United States was in talks with Russia about a potential swap but cautioned that the discussions had not yet produced “a clear pathway to a resolution.” That came after the Kremlin spokesman Dmitri S. Peskov had said that the two countries were in contact about the possibility of a swap.
Mr. Gershkovich, 31, has been held at Moscow’s high-security Lefortovo Prison since late March on espionage charges. The United States and The Wall Street Journal have vehemently denied the accusations, calling the allegations false.
The journalist, who has been based in Russia for almost six years, was detained on March 29 during a reporting trip to the central Russian city of Yekaterinburg. If convicted, he could face 20 years in a penal colony. Russian prosecutors so far have offered no evidence supporting the accusations.
The United States considers Mr. Gershkovich and Paul Whelan, a former Marine serving a 16-year sentence after being convicted in 2020 of spying, to be “wrongfully detained” — the equivalent of being political hostages.
“Our message to Evan and to Paul is this: ‘Keep the faith. We won’t stop until you are home,’” the White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, told reporters last Friday, when Mr. Gershkovich’s imprisonment completed 100 days.
Mr. Sullivan, the national security adviser, met the Gershkovich family that day and said the United States would “do everything possible to bring him home.”
In a brief statement, Mr. Gershkovich’s family said the support he had received from around the world had been “overwhelming.” “Every day that Evan isn’t home is another day too many,” the family said.
Earlier this month, Lynne M. Tracy, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, visited Mr. Gershkovich at the prison and said that he was in “good health” and remained “strong, despite his circumstances.”