Washington — The U.S. ambassador to Russia met with detained Wall Street Journal reporterin a Moscow prison on Monday, their second such meeting since Gershkovich was arrested in March on espionage charges.
The visit by Ambassador Lynne Tracey comes amid protests by the U.S. that diplomatic officials have been denied access by Russian authorities to meet with him at the capital’s notorious Lefortovo prison, where he is being held.
Gershkovich, the U.S. government and the Wall Street Journal have strongly denied the espionage charges, the first against an American reporter in Russia since the Cold War. Tracy first met with Gershkovich on April 17, more than two weeks after his arrest.
“Ambassador Tracy reports that Mr. Gershkovich is in good health and remains strong, despite his circumstances,” a State Department spokesperson told CBS News. “U.S. Embassy officials will continue to provide all appropriate support to Mr. Gershkovich and his family, and we expect Russian authorities to provide continued consular access.”
Roger Carstens, the special presidential envoy for hostage affairs at the State Department, said last week that Tracy saw Gershkovich at a recent hearing where his. But U.S. officials haven’t been able to talk with him in weeks because the Russians have declined to provide consular access, he said.
“She had the chance to lay eyes on him,” Carstens told NBC News at the Aspen Ideas Festival. “And that’s not a bad thing, but we’ve not had a chance to garner consular access yet. And in our mind, the Russians owe us that.”
The U.S. and Russia are both signatories to the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, which says states have the right to visit and communicate with their nationals who have been arrested or detained in other states.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last Thursday at a Council on Foreign Relations event that the U.S. had sought consular access to Gershkovich “virtually every day.”
“We’ll continue to work to bring Evan home,” Blinken said. “We’re not going to stop until we get him home.”
Carstens said the Russians “have been playing a tough game” over Gershkovich’s potential release.
“They’re not willing to really talk to us about him yet,” Carstens said. “The Russians might play this out in a long, drawn-out trial process. And after a conviction, if he is convicted, I assume he will be, it’ll be time to negotiate his release.”
The U.S. is not waiting until Gershkovich’s trial, which has not been scheduled, to try and find ways to secure his release, Carstens said.
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