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White House confirms prisoner-swap talks with Russia on detained reporter

The White House confirmed Friday that the U.S. has engaged in negotiations with Russia for a potential prisoner swap to secure the release of Evan Gershkovich, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, who has been detained in Russia since March. File Photo courtesy of Evan Gershkovich/LinkedIn
The White House confirmed Friday that the U.S. has engaged in negotiations with Russia for a potential prisoner swap to secure the release of Evan Gershkovich, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, who has been detained in Russia since March. File Photo courtesy of Evan Gershkovich/LinkedIn

July 7 (UPI) -- The White House confirmed Friday that U.S. officials are engaging in negotiations for a potential prisoner swap to secure the release of Washington Post reporter Evan Gershkovich, who has been detained in Russia since March.

"I do not want to give false hope," National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters at a press conference Friday.

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"There have been discussions, but those discussions have not produced a clear pathway," Sullivan said.

On Monday, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, Lynne Tracy, visited Lefortovo prison in Moscow to meet with Gershkovich.

On Tuesday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters that talks were underway to potentially exchange Gershkovich for Russian citizen Vladimir Dunaev, who faces cybercrime charges in the United States.

"As we've said before, certain contacts on this matter remain, but we do not make them public in any way. They must be carried out in complete silence," Peskov said.

In December, WNBA player Brittney Griner was exchanged for Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout after 10 months in Russian custody on drug charges.

On Friday, the 100th day of his detention, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre reaffirmed Gershkovich's innocence.

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"The world knows that the charges against Evan are baseless; he was arrested in Russia during the course of simply doing his job as a journalist," Jean-Pierre said.

Jean-Pierre also reiterated that the United States is still trying to secure the release of Paul Whelan, who has been detained in Russia since December 2018.

"The president has been very clear that we have no higher priority than securing the release of Evan, Paul Whelan and all Americans detained abroad," Jean-Pierre said.

"Our message to Evan and to Paul, is this: keep the faith. We won't stop until you are home," Jean-Pierre said.

Last month, a Moscow court upheld Gershkovich's detention in a hearing that was attended by the reporter's parents and Ambassador Tracy.

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