Kremlin denies Trump’s claim he will agree deal to free Evan Gershkovich

Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter, was arrested in March 2023 for obtaining information on a 'Russian defence enterprise'
Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter, was arrested in March 2023 and has since appeared in court but has not been put on trial - NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP via Getty Images

Russia has denied a claim by Donald Trump that he will use his relationship with Vladimir Putin to free Evan Gershkovich, a reporter who has been detained on spying charges.

Mr Trump said on his Truth Social platform on Thursday that Mr Gershkovich, who works for the Wall Street Journal, would be freed immediately after the US election on Nov 5 if he wins.

“Evan Gershkovich, the reporter from The Wall Street Journal, who is being held by Russia, will be released almost immediately after the election, but definitely before I assume office. He will be home safe and with his family,” Mr Trump said.

“Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, will do that for me, but not for anyone else, and we will be paying nothing!”

Mr Gershkovich was arrested in Russia in March last year on spying charges that he, his paper and the Biden administration have all strongly denied.

He has spent more than a year in a Moscow prison, with no date set for a trial.

However, the Kremlin denied that Mr Trump had agreed any behind-closed-doors deal with Putin for Mr Gershkovich’s release.

Asked about the post, Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, said Putin has “naturally not had contacts with Donald Trump”.

Mr Peskov reiterated previous Kremlin statements that contacts with Washington regarding any exchange of prisoners must be conducted “in complete silence and absolutely discreetly. This is the only way they can be effective”.

Putin said in February that it might be possible to free the reporter in exchange for Vadim Krasikov, a Russian serving a life sentence in Germany for murder.

Asked about Mr Trump’s claim, his campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said: “There is only one person who can negotiate the safe return of Mr Gershkovich back to his family - President Trump.”

He did not respond to questions about contact that Mr Trump has had with the Russian president.

The Biden campaign said the release of Mr Gershkovich remained an urgent priority, and it accused Mr Trump of using wrongfully imprisoned Americans as political props.

“Donald Trump doesn’t give a damn about the innocent Americans unjustly imprisoned by Vladimir Putin,” TJ Ducklo, a Biden campaign adviser, said in an email.

“Trump has called journalists ‘enemies of the people’ and pledged to imprison reporters whose coverage he doesn’t like – not all that dissimilar to what’s happening right now to Evan Gershkovich in Russia.”

Mr Gershkovich was arrested in March 2023 by the FSB, Russia’s federal intelligence agency, for obtaining information on a “Russian defence enterprise”.

The Kremlin said he had been “caught red-handed” but did not give any evidence for his alleged crime. He has since appeared in court but has not been put on trial.

The Wall Street Journal has launched a worldwide campaign for his release.

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