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Jailed US reporter’s family vows to ‘continue fighting’

One year after US journalist Evan Gershkovich was arrested in Russia on espionage charges, his family has vowed to continue fighting for his release, saying his innocence gives him courage in the face of the ordeal.

“We never anticipated this situation happening to our son and brother, let alone a full year with no certainty or clear path forward,” his family said in a letter to the readers of the Wall Street Journal, Mr Gershkovich’s employer.

“But despite this long battle, we are still standing strong.”

Mr Gershkovich, 32, was detained by FSB security service agents on 29 March 2023, and accused of spying – the first such charge against a Western journalist since the Soviet-era.

Mr Gershkovich, his employers and the White House all vehemently reject the spying accusations, saying he was an honest journalist doing his job.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed willingness to exchange Mr Gershkovich, and yesterday the Kremlin said conversations were still ongoing behind the scenes.

In their letter, Mr Gershkovich’s parents, Mikhail and Ella, and sister Danielle described the past year as “unimaginable”.

Journalists hold ‘Free Evan’ signs in Freedom Plaza in Washington on Thursday

“It has felt like holding our breath,” the family wrote. “We have been living with a constant ache in our hearts thinking about Evan every moment of every day.”

The family thanked the US government, the Journal, Mr Gershkovich’s friends and well-wishers for working towards his release and for their support. The family has met with US President Joe Biden who promised to do “whatever it takes” to bring the reporter home.

“Throughout all the challenges in this tumultuous time we’ve watched as Evan has faced this uncertainty, stuck in a small cell, with limited news of the world, without his freedom.”

Washington has accused Moscow of arresting US citizens on baseless charges to use them as bargaining chips to secure the release of Russians convicted abroad.

The US government has declared that Mr Gershkovich is wrongfully detained, meaning it effectively regards him as a political hostage.

Over the past year, the family has watched footage and photographs from a Moscow court where Mr Gershkovich appeared every few weeks to have his pre-trial detention extended continually.

“We have watched him face this with his head held high because he is innocent,” the family wrote in their letter.

“He inspires us to keep going every day, especially on those days where we receive his letters and see his smile from the courtroom camera.”

Most recently on Tuesday, the court in Moscow ruled that Mr Gershkovich would remain in detention until late June.

At Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, the reporter shares a small cell with another inmate.

He gets an hour-long walk in a small prison yard every day, tries to stay fit through exercise and relies on fruit and vegetables sent by friends to supplement the meager prison diet.

“We will continue fighting for Evan’s freedom, whatever it takes,” the family’s letter said.

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