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The State Department is seeking the release of Evan Gershkovich and Paul Whelan, who have been detained in Russia on espionage charges.
The United States said Tuesday that it had made a “significant proposal” to secure the release of two “wrongfully detained” Americans, namely Evan Gershkovich and Paul Whelan, but it was rejected by Russia.
Mr. Gershkovich is a Wall Street Journal reporter, while Mr. Whelan is a former U.S. Marine who worked as a corporate security executive in Michigan. Both were detained in Russia on espionage charges.
Mr. Miller declined to provide specific details about the proposal, but he clarified that it was solely intended to secure the release of Mr. Whelan and Mr. Gershkovich and not any other detainees.
“That proposal was rejected by Russia. [We] shouldn’t have to make these proposals; they never should have been arrested in the first place. They should both be released immediately,” Mr. Miller said. “But we have made a number of proposals … including a substantial one in recent weeks.”
Mr. Miller said the Biden administration would continue “to do everything we can to bring both of them home,” including discussing this issue with allies who can help secure their release.
“Not a week goes by without intense activity to bring Paul and Evan home,” he said.
Mr. Whelan holds U.S., British, Irish, and Canadian citizenship. After a bad-conduct discharge from the Marine Corps in 2008, he went to work as a corporate security executive for a Michigan-based international auto parts manufacturer.
He faces allegations of espionage on behalf of the United States, specifically that he allegedly “collected information constituting a state secret about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex.”
Both Mr. Gershkovich and his employer have vehemently denied these allegations, with the U.S. government declaring his detention wrongful. Russian authorities have yet to provide concrete evidence to support the espionage charges.
Alsu Kurmasheva’s Case
When asked about the release of Alsu Kurmasheva—a Russian-American journalist who was detained in Russia for failing to register as an agent of a foreign government—Mr. Miller said that Washington is closely monitoring her case.
“We remain deeply concerned about the extension of her pre-trial detention. We take seriously our commitment to assist U.S. citizens who have been detained overseas, and we will continue to do so,” he added.
Ms. Kurmasheva, who works for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, has been detained since June and was formally arrested and charged in October with failing to register as an agent of a foreign government. Her pre-trial detention has been extended until February.
A coalition of 14 press freedom and First Amendment civil society groups, led by the National Press Club, has urged the Biden administration to designate Ms. Kurmasheva as a wrongfully detained U.S. citizen.
“Our understanding is that Russia has not officially notified the State Department of her detention — however, the U.S. should not delay its own process due to what appears to be a stalling tactic.
They urged Washington to change “outmoded requirements” on designating wrongful detentions “so that the State Department has the authority to quickly declare a detention is unjust when a journalist is taken.”
Caden Pearson and Ryan Morgan contributed to this report.