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Evan Gershkovich: US Urges Journalist’s Release in Call With Russia

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has urged the release of a detained Wall Street Journal reporter in a rare phone call with his Russian counterpart.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov responded by saying that the US should not try to “make a fuss” or politicise the arrest.

Evan Gershkovich was arrested on Friday on accusations of spying.

The Wall Street Journal has vehemently denied the espionage charge.

The Russian Foreign Ministry on Sunday confirmed that Mr Lavrov and Mr Blinken discussed the arrest of Mr Gershkovich in a phone call that was initiated by the US.

A readout of the call released by the US Department of State said that Mr Blinken conveyed “great concern over Russia’s unacceptable detention of a US citizen journalist”.

Mr Lavrov responded by repeating Russia’s claims that Mr Gershkovich was caught “red-handed attempting to obtain classified information” and that his case will be handled by Russian courts, a statement by Russia’s foreign ministry said.

Mr Lavrov also cautioned US officials and media not to fan “hysteria” around the journalist’s arrest.

“It was stressed that it is inadmissible for Washington officials and Western mass media to stir up hysteria with an obvious aim of giving a political overtone to this case,” the ministry said.

The White House has previously condemned Mr Gershkovich’s arrest “in the strongest terms”, and Mr Blinken said he was “deeply concerned” by his detainment.

During the call, Mr Blinken also urged the release of other US citizens detained in Russia, including former US Marine Paul Whelan, who has also been held on espionage charges for over five years.

Mr Gershkovich, 31, is a well-known correspondent in Moscow. The Wall Street Journal lost all contact with him on Wednesday afternoon, after which it was revealed that he was arrested by Russia’s FSB security service.

The FSB claimed that it had halted “illegal activities” and that the journalist had been detained “acting on US instructions”.

They alleged that Mr Gershkovich had “collected information classified as a state secret about the activities of a Russian defence enterprise”. He was ordered to remain in detention until 29 May.

Espionage in Russia carries a maximum jail term of 20 years.

Mr Gershkovich’s arrest has been strongly condemned by journalists around the world.

In a letter to Russia’s US ambassador Anatoly Antenov, the Committee to Protect Journalists called Mr Gershkovich’s arrest “unwarranted and unjust”, and accused the Russian government of being anti-press.

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