‘We want to reach an agreement’

Russian officials in talks about releasing Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich

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Evan Gershkovich

Russian officials have indicated they would like to strike a deal to free imprisoned Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who grew up in Princeton.

Gershkovich, who graduated from Princeton High School in 2010, was arrested March 29 in Yekaterinburg, Russia, on charges of espionage, according to published reports. He was on a reporting assignment when he was arrested.

Gershkovich has been accused of spying for the United States government – a charge that the Wall Street Journal, the United States government and Gershkovich have denied.

At a press conference Dec. 14, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his administration would like to release Gershkovich, but the agreement must mutually be acceptable, according to published accounts in The Wall Street Journal.

Putin was responding to a question about Russia’s rejection of an offer aimed at freeing Gershkovich and Paul Whelan, who is serving a 16-year sentence for espionage, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“It is not that we have refused to return them. We want to reach an agreement, and these agreements must be mutually acceptable and must suit both sides,” Putin said.

“We have contacts with our American counterparts in this regard, and this is an ongoing dialogue. I hope that we find a solution,” Putin said.

U.S. Department of State spokesman Matthew Miller said that if Putin is serious about reaching a deal, “all he has to do is look at the proposals that we have made, which were significant proposals that were made in good faith.”

The Russian government rejected an offer to free Gershkovich and Whelan earlier this month. The deal reportedly involved trading prisoners held by the United States in exchange for releasing the two Americans.

Gershkovich grew up in Princeton as the child of Russian emigres. He played soccer and was the captain of the Princeton High School soccer team in 2009, school district officials said. The team went on to win the state championship.

Gershkovich is believed to be the first American reporter to be held as an accused spy in Russian since the Soviet Union collapsed, according to The New York Times.

The last American reporter to be detained was U.S. News and World Report correspondent Nicholas Daniloff in 1986. He was released in exchange for a Russian citizen who was being held in the United States on charges of espionage.

Gershkovich graduated from Bowdoin College in Maine in 2014. He majored in philosophy and English, according to published reports in The Washington Post. He got his start in journalism as an assistant at The New York Times.

He previously reported for the Moscow Times, which is an independent, English-language news outlet in Russia. He also worked for Agence France-Presse before joining The Wall Street Journal in January 2022. He covered Russia, Ukraine and other countries in the former Soviet Union, according to The Washington Post.