White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan confirmed Friday that there have been discussions around the prospect of a prisoner swap for Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, “but those discussions have not produced a clear pathway to a resolution.”
Earlier this week, the Kremlin said certain contacts between Russia and the United States on the exchange of prisoners remain, but they must be carried out “in complete silence.”
“As we’ve said before, certain contacts on this matter remain, but we do not want to make them public in any way. They must be carried out and continue in complete silence,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday.
“It is true, and we have said that we remain in contact with Russian authorities at high levels on these cases to try to figure out a way to bring unjustly detained Americans home, including Evan,” Sullivan told reporters during Friday’s White House press briefing.
“We have also made clear for months now, even before Evan was detained, as we were dealing with Paul Whelan, that we are prepared to do hard things in order to get our citizens home, including getting Evan home. I do not want to give false hope – what the Kremlin said earlier this week is correct, there have been discussions, but those discussions have not produced a clear pathway to a resolution, and so I cannot stand here today and tell you that we have a clear answer to how we are going to get Evan home,” he said.
Sullivan also told reporters he met earlier Friday with representatives for the Wall Street Journal and his family “to talk about the latest status in his case and our efforts to bring Evan home.”
And he declined to say if the administration perceives any changes to Russia’s willing to negotiate Gershkovich’s release following last month’s short-lived Wagner coup.
The White House marked 100 days since Gershkovich was detained in Russia on Friday, with White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre telling reporters President Joe Biden has “no higher priority” than securing the freedom of Gershkovich, Paul Whelan and other Americans wrongfully detained abroad.
“The world knows that the charges against Evan are baseless – he was arrested in Russia during the course of simply doing his job as a journalist, and he is being held by Russia for leverage because he is an American,” Jean-Pierre said during Friday’s press briefing. “The president has been very clear that we have no higher priority than securing the release of Evan, Paul Whelan and all Americans wrongfully detained abroad.”
Earlier this week, the US ambassador to Russia met with Gershkovich, according to the Wall Street Journal. Last month, a Russian court upheld his extended detention in a Moscow prison until at least the end of August. The US State Department has officially designated Gershkovich as wrongfully detained in Russia. Biden has also been blunt about Gershkovich’s arrest, urging Russia to “let him go.”
“The team continues to work on these cases every day from all angles,” Jean-Pierre told reporters Friday. “Our message to Evan and to Paul, is this: keep the faith. We won’t stop until you are home.”