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U.S. ambassador meets with journalist held in Russia, demands release

U.S. Embassy officials were able to meet with imprisoned Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich for the first time, the U.S. Ambassador to Russia confirmed Monday. File Photo courtesy of Evan Gershkovich/LinkedIn
1 of 2 | U.S. Embassy officials were able to meet with imprisoned Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich for the first time, the U.S. Ambassador to Russia confirmed Monday. File Photo courtesy of Evan Gershkovich/LinkedIn

April 17 (UPI) -- U.S. Embassy officials were able to meet with Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich for the first time in a Russian prison, U.S. Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy confirmed Monday.

Gershkovich, 31, was first detained last month and later formally charged with espionage, accused of spying on Russia for the United States. A Russian court ordered him to remain in custody until May 29.

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"I visited @WSJ's Evan #Gershkovich today at Lefortovo Prison -- the first time we've been permitted access to him since his wrongful detention more than two weeks ago. He is in good health and remains strong. We reiterate our call for his immediate release," Tracy tweeted Monday afternoon.

She did not elaborate further on the meeting.

Gershovich was able to meet with lawyers earlier this month.

The visit comes days after the U.S. State Department formally declared Gershkovich "wrongfully detained."

That designation moves his case to the Office of the Special President Envoy for Hostage Affairs, allocating more resources to try and secure his release.

Gershkovich faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted on the espionage charges.

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The Wall Street Journal has repeatedly denied the spying claims on his behalf.

"Journalism is not a crime. We condemn the Kremlin's continued repression of independent voices in Russia and its ongoing war against truth," State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters last week.

A Russian diplomat said last week the country would wait for a verdict in the case before considering any possible prisoner swap.

The group Reporters Without Borders said Gershkovich was investigating the Wagner mercenary group when he was detained in Yekaterinburg, Russia's fourth-largest city, located in the Ural Federal District.

U.S. politicians from both sides of the aisle have been calling for his release since he was detained.

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