According to the BBC, the “wrongfully held” classification in the United States implies that the issue will now be handed to the office of the Special Envoy for Hostage Matters.
This will boost the case’s visibility and allow the government to devote more efforts to obtaining his release.
The State Department’s Senior Deputy Spokesman, Vedant Patel, stated at his regular press conference that Secretary of State Antony Blinken “determined that Evan Gershkovich is illegally held by Russia.”
He demanded the reporter’s “immediate release” and decried “the Kremlin’s persistent harassment of independent voices in Russia, as well as its ongoing battle against the truth.”
About Gershkovich’s consular access, the spokesperson informed reporters, “We are currently seeking consular access.” At this moment, Russia’s duties under our consular treaty are being violated, as is international law. We have emphasised the need of the Russian government providing this access as quickly as feasible…
“We believe that it is a matter of human dignity to ensure that Gershkovich can meet with consular officers.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry claimed last week that the problem of consular access had been settled, but that the “fuss in the US about this matter, which was aimed at pressuring the Russian authorities… was fruitless and pointless.”
Gershkovich, who is accredited to work as a journalist in Russia by the Foreign Ministry, was detained late last month in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg for “collecting information constituting a state secret about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex,” according to Moscow officials.
The Federal Security Service (FSB) of Russia has initiated a criminal complaint against the American citizen under Article 276 of the Russian Criminal Code (“Espionage”).
This is the first time an American journalist has been jailed in Russia on spying charges since the Cold War.
In Russia, espionage carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
According to the BBC, the Wall Street Journal has dismissed the eavesdropping accusations.
In a statement on Monday, the newspaper said: “The distinction will unlock additional resources and attention at the highest levels of the US government in securing his release. We are doing everything in our power to support Evan and his family.”
According to a research by the James Foley Legacy Foundation, which fights for the liberation of Americans taken prisoner overseas, at least 65 Americans will be wrongfully incarcerated abroad in 2022.
The organisation is named after an American journalist who was kidnapped and executed by the Islamic State terror group in Syria in 2014.