Russia Hints At Possible Prisoner Swap Negotiations

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The Kremlin hinted Tuesday prisoner swap negotiations might be possible with the United States, offering a glimmer of hope for an American journalist and a former Marine detained in Russia.

After Lynne Tracy, the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, was permitted to visit detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich in prison, questions surrounding his possible release were fielded to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who hinted prisoner swap negotiations were possible.

“We have said that there have been certain contacts on the subject, but we don’t want them to be discussed in public,” Peskov said, according to NPR.

“They must be carried out and continue in complete silence.”

Gershkovich, 31, was arrested in Yekaterinburg in March on espionage charges. Russian officials claimed he was caught “red-handed” in his efforts of spying “in the interests of the American government” while reporting on the war in Ukraine. Just prior to his arrest, Gershkovich had contributed to a Wall Street Journal story on the Wagner Group, a Russian paramilitary force whose fighters recently mutinied against the Russian government.

The Wall Street Journal “vehemently” denied the charges against Gershokovich and have demanded his immediate release. (RELATED: ‘Unacceptable’: White House Condemns Russia Detaining US Journalist, Warns Against Travel)

The U.S. is also seeking the release of former Marine Paul Whelan, who has been detained on espionage charges in Russia since 2018 and sentenced to 16 years in prison. In the latest high-profile prisoner swap between the two countries, Whelan was allegedly passed over for WNBA player Brittney Griner, leaving his family “devastated.” However, White House official John Kirby claims the Russians weren’t willing to negotiate releasing Whelan.

“The only deal that the Russians were willing to put forward was Brittney Griner for Viktor Bout. Believe me, we would have liked to have both of them home today and we have tried all kinds of different permutations and options and different sort of initiatives, proposals to get that done, but it just wasn’t possible,” Kirby said at the time.