The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday calling for the immediate release of American reporter Evan Gershkovich, who has been detained in Russia since late March on espionage charges that he denies.
The vote was 422-0 in favor of the nonbinding measure.
In addition to calling for the journalist’s release, the resolution urged U.S. executive branch officials to raise Gershkovich’s case in all interactions with the Kremlin.
The reporter for The Wall Street Journal was arrested on March 29 while on assignment in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg. Moscow has accused him of espionage, which he, his employer and the U.S. government vehemently deny.
His original pre-trial detention was originally set to expire on May 29, but a court last month extended the period until August 30.
The Wall Street Journal welcomed the resolution.
“We applaud this latest show of bipartisan support from Congress in the fight for Evan’s release. His wrongful detention is a blow to press freedom, and it should matter to anyone who values free society. We will not rest until he is free,” editor-in-chief Emma Tucker and publisher Almar Latour said in a statement about the resolution.
Russia's Washington embassy did not immediately reply to VOA's email requesting comment on the resolution.
The resolution also calls on Russia to provide unfettered and consistent consular access to Gershkovich.
U.S. Embassy officials were allowed to visit Gershkovich once, but two other requests for consular access have been denied.
Representative Michael McCaul, a Republican from Texas, sponsored the bill.
“Evan is innocent. He was simply doing his job, reporting on the news in Russia,” McCaul said Monday in remarks urging support for the resolution. “I want to assure Evan’s friends, his co-workers and especially his family that I’ve met with that we will continue our fight every day until we bring him home to you.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin “knows that a free press is a pillar of democracy,” McCaul said in May at a Foreign Affairs Committee session on the bill. “So, he arrested Evan with the intention of not only silencing him, but of scaring other journalists to remain silent too."
The resolution also urges Moscow “to desist from detaining, imprisoning, and otherwise seeking to intimidate journalists in order to curtail or censor an independent press.”
Out of 180 countries, Reporters Without Borders ranks Russia 164th in terms of press freedom. At least 22 journalists are currently detained in Russia, according to the press freedom group. Numerous foreign correspondents have left the country following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine because of safety concerns.
Gershkovich is the first U.S. journalist to be detained in Russia on spying charges since the end of the Cold War. The U.S. government has designated Gershkovich as wrongfully detained.
Additionally, the resolution calls for the immediate release of American former Marine Paul Whelan, who has been detained in Russia since 2018 on espionage charges. He received a 16-year prison sentence in 2020.
“Today’s bipartisan resolution condemns the Putin regime for their illegal imprisonment,” McCaul said Monday. “And today we send a strong message to Vladimir Putin that in America, Republicans and Democrats alike will not tolerate his corrupt regime holding U.S. citizens hostage under false pretenses.”