Blinken says Wall Street Journal reporter is 'wrongfully detained' by Russia

Russian ambassador summoned to State Department over Evan Gershkovich's detention

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich appears in an undated handout image taken in an unknown location. The Wall Street Journal / Handout / Reuters

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he has “no doubt” that Russia “wrongfully detained” Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, adding that Washington would soon formally declare the journalist to be wrongfully detained.

“In my own mind, there’s no doubt that he’s being wrongfully detained by Russia and that’s exactly what I said to Foreign Minister (Sergey) Lavrov when I spoke to him at the weekend and insisted that Evan be released immediately,” Mr Blinken told reporters at Nato headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday.

“But I want to make sure, as always, because there is a formal process that we go through ... and I expect that to be completed soon.”

Once a US citizen is formally declared wrongfully detained, their case is taken up by the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs who works to secure their release.

“From my perspective, from the department’s perspective, there is no higher priority than the safety and security of American citizens around the world,” Mr Blinken said.

Lawyers for Gershkovich have appealed his arrest. They had met him in a Moscow prison on Tuesday, their first access since he was detained.

A State Department spokesperson told Bloomberg that Russia's ambassador to Washington was summoned by the US last week.

Ambassador Anatoly Antonov met with Victoria Nuland, under secretary for political affairs, at the State Department on March 30.

Mr Blinken said he called Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov at the weekend to demand Gershkovich's release.

Russian authorities on March 30 announced they had detained Gershkovich on espionage charges, which the Wall Street Journal has denied and the White House has condemned as “unacceptable”.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: April 05, 2023, 6:04 PM