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US House committee approves resolutions calling on Russia to release Evan Gershkovich, Paul Whelan

The US House Foreign Affairs Committee has issued resolutions calling on Russian authorities to immediately release Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter arrested on suspicion of espionage, and Paul Whelan who is serving his prison sentence for spying against Russia, The Wall Street Journal reports.

“Evan is innocent—he was just doing his job, reporting on the news in Russia,” committee chair Michael McCaul said.

The Wall Street Journal notes that the move can help President Joe Biden’s administration to bring Gershkovich and Whelan home. Biden himself told a White House reception on 16 May that his team “is working every day” to secure their releases.

Reports emerged earlier that the US is engaged in talks with other countries in hopes to find “high-value Russians” that the Kremlin will want to swap for Evan Gershkovich and Paul Whelan, US citizens imprisoned in Russia. According to CNN, the US currently has no high-profile Russian spies in custody which would entice Russia to conduct any potential swap. Therefore, Washington is forced to seek help from its allies.

Gershkovich was detained in Yekaterinburg on 29 March. Media reports suggest that he was surveying Russians about their attitudes towards the Wagner Group and travelled to the city of Nizhny Tagil where a defence-industry factory Uralvagonzavod is located. He was sent to a Moscow detention centre the next day. Bloomberg previously reported that Vladimir Putin personally gave the FSB the green light to take the reporter in custody.

Paul Whelan, a holder of British, US, Irish, and Canadian passports, was detained on suspicion of espionage in 2018 in Russia. Later, the investigation team claimed that they had found confidential documents in his possession. Whelan pleads not guilty. In 2020, he was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

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