The U.S. ambassador to Russia on Monday was able to meet with Evan Gershkovich, an American journalist detained in a Moscow jail.
The consular visit by Ambassador Lynne Tracy is only the third such visit granted since the Wall Street Journal reporter’s arrest in March.
“Ambassador Tracy reported that Evan continues to be in good health and remains strong, despite the circumstances,” the U.S. Embassy in Moscow said in a statement.
Tracy last met with Gershkovich on July 3.
As of Monday, the 31-year-old reporter has been in Russian custody for nearly 20 weeks. He is being held in Moscow’s Lefortovo Prison.
Russian authorities detained Gershkovich on espionage charges on March 29, while he was on assignment in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg.
Gershkovich, the Journal and the U.S. government vehemently deny the allegations. The U.S. State Department has classified Gershkovich as wrongfully detained.
Journalists are at high risk of being detained or harassed when reporting from hostile countries, say media analysts.
Currently, two American journalists are held overseas: Gershkovich in Russia and Austin Tice, a freelancer being held in Syria.
Paul Beckett, the Journal’s Washington bureau chief, told VOA Monday, “There’s a much greater realization that this can happen to anybody, and when it does, it needs everybody’s support.”
“This is going to keep happening, and as long as regimes see advantage to them to doing it, they will do it more and more and I think that’s what we all have to respond to,” Beckett added. “That’s why we’d like to see the government not just get Evan and Austin back but figure out how to take the incentives out of doing this for the governments that participate in it.”
Beckett spoke with VOA at the National Press Club in Washington where he appeared on a panel to draw attention to the cases of Gershkovich and Tice.
The Monday event marked 11 years since Tice was kidnapped at a Syrian checkpoint. He is believed to be held by the Syrian government.
Clayton Weimers, the executive director of the Reporters Without Borders U.S. bureau, told VOA that Tice and Gershkovich’s cases show that the U.S. needs a better strategy to respond to the threat of these issues.
“The United States and indeed democracies around the world need to find ways to raise the cost of this kind of bad business,” Weimers said. “How do we impose stiffer penalties to disincentivize hostage-taking in the first place?”
In Gershkovich’s case, the journalist has had his initial pretrial detention extended until at least August 30.
Last month, Moscow said that Russia was in contact with Washington about a potential prisoner swap.
A State Department spokesperson told VOA via email on Monday that embassy officials will continue to provide all appropriate support to Gershkovich and his family.
“We expect Russian authorities to provide continued consular access. Once again, the United States calls on the Russian Federation to immediately release Evan Gershkovich and also to release wrongfully detained U.S. citizen Paul Whelan,” the spokesperson said.
Whelan is a former U.S. Marine whom Russia sentenced to 16 years in prison on espionage charges that he and the U.S. government deny.
In July, U.S. President Joe Biden said the United States is “serious about a prisoner exchange” to obtain Gershkovich’s freedom, but the White House has also said discussions with the Kremlin on a potential swap have not yet given way to “a pathway to a resolution.”