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Trump says Putin will free jailed US reporter Gershkovich for him

Trump says Putin will free jailed US reporter Gershkovich for him
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US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said on Thursday he will use his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin to get Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich freed from a Russian prison.

The assertion was ridiculed by the campaign of Democratic President Joe Biden, which cited Trump’s frequent criticism of the news media as an “enemy of the people”.

Trump wrote on his Truth Social media platform that the journalist would be freed soon after the November 5 US presidential election where he faces a rematch against Biden.

“Evan Gershkovich, the Reporter from The Wall Street Journal, who is being held by Russia, will be released almost immediately after the Election, but definitely before I assume Office. He will be HOME, SAFE, AND WITH HIS FAMILY,” Trump said.

“Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, will do that for me, but not for anyone else, and WE WILL BE PAYING NOTHING!”

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich makes a heart-shaped gesture as he attends a court hearing in Moscow, Russia, in April. Photo: Reuters

Gershkovich was arrested in Russia in March last year on spying charges that he, his paper and the Biden administration have all strongly denied. He has spent more than a year in a Moscow prison, with no date set for a trial.

US Ambassador Lynne Tracy visited Gershkovich in detention and said he was “maintaining a positive mood while waiting for the trial to begin of a crime he did not commit,” according to a post on the Telegram channel of the US embassy in Moscow.

Trump did not refer to any contacts with Putin or say what grounds he had to believe that the Russian leader would release Gershkovich.

His campaign did not address questions about whether Trump or his advisers had been in touch with Putin or his staff about Gershkovich. Instead, Steven Cheung, a Trump campaign spokesman, said: “There is only one person who can negotiate the safe return of Mr Gershkovich back to his family – President Trump.”

Asked about the post, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin has “naturally not had contacts with Donald Trump.”

The Biden campaign said the release of Gershkovich remains an urgent priority, and it accused Trump of using wrongfully imprisoned Americans as political props.

“Donald Trump doesn’t give a damn about the innocent Americans unjustly imprisoned by Vladimir Putin,” Biden campaign adviser TJ Ducklo said in an email.

“Trump has called journalists ‘enemies of the people’ and pledged to imprison reporters whose coverage he doesn’t like – not all that dissimilar to what’s happening right now to Evan Gershkovich in Russia.”

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US basketball star Brittney Griner freed by Moscow in exchange for Russian arms dealer

US basketball star Brittney Griner freed by Moscow in exchange for Russian arms dealer

Putin said in February that it might be possible to free the reporter in exchange for Vadim Krasikov, a Russian serving a life sentence in Germany for murder.

Peskov reiterated previous Kremlin statements that contacts with Washington regarding any exchange of prisoners must be conducted “in complete silence and absolutely discreetly. This is the only way they can be effective.”

In December 2022 after months of talks, US basketball star Brittney Griner was released in a prisoner swap with Moscow in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

Earlier that year, Russia freed former US Marine Trevor Reed and the US released Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko.

During his 2017-2021 presidency, Trump expressed admiration for Putin. In 2018, he refused to blame the Russian leader for meddling in the 2016 US election, casting doubt on the findings of his own intelligence agencies and sparking criticism at home.

Trump has also claimed he could end the war in Ukraine within 24 hours of returning to the White House, though he has not said how he would do this.

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