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Russia’s Lavrov hints at possible prisoner swap for Evan Gershkovic, Paul Whelan

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov hinted Tuesday at the possibility of a prisoner swap involving two Americans detained in Russia, Paul Whelan and Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich .

Mr. Lavrov told a wide-ranging news conference at the United Nations that the avenue for discussing detained U.S. and Russian citizens is when President Biden and Russian President Vladimir V. Putin meet in Geneva in 2021 Created. At the time, Mr Lavrov said the channel had no provision “for journalists to participate”.

“This is an inherently private job, and being public here will only complicate the process,” Mr Lavrov said at the United Nations, as Russia’s controversial month-long presidency of the Security Council comes to an end.

Mr. Lavrov said several U.S. citizens were serving prison terms in Russia for various crimes, but Mr. Whelan and Mr. Gershkovich “were detained while they were committing crimes and received material”, which he insisted was a state secret .

Russia has provided no evidence of such allegations against Mr Gershkovich. Mr Whelan, a former US Marine, was detained minutes after a Russian acquaintance handed him a USB stick that Russia insisted contained a classified list of its security personnel. The Biden administration classified the two as “wrongly detained,” equivalent to political prisoners.

Mr Lavrov said Russia rejected the idea that journalists did not commit a crime, apparently referring to the phrase “journalism is not a crime”, which news advocacy groups have often campaigned for the release of detained journalists around the world, including Mr Gershkovich. Quote this sentence.

Mr Gershkovich, who was reporting from the city of Yekaterinburg, was detained on March 29 and charged with espionage, a charge his employer and the United States strongly reject. He was formally indicted on April 7 and remains in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, where inmates are held in isolation and rarely receive visits from lawyers.

Mr Whelan was detained in December 2018, tried and convicted. He is serving 16 years in prison.

The U.S. recently agreed to a prisoner swap with Russia to free detained Americans — most notably WNBA star Brittney Greener in December and former U.S. Marine Trevor Lee in April 2022. Germany.

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