WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday formally declared that Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is being wrongfully detained in Russia.
The official classification means Gershkovich's case will be handled by the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs at the State Department, giving the government additional resources to secure his release. The office's envoy, Roger Carstens, will work toward Gershkovich's release and maintaining contact with his family.
"Journalism is not a crime," Vedant Patel, a State Department spokesperson, said in a statement Monday. "We condemn the Kremlin’s continued repression of independent voices in Russia, and its ongoing war against the truth."
Blinken last week said he considered Gershkovich wrongfully detained, but it is the first the State Department has formally designated him as such. The Journal was the first to report the new designation.
The U.S. has called on Russia to release Gershkovich and Paul Whelan, a businessman and former Marine imprisoned on suspicion of spying.
Gershkovich was arrested on spying allegations at the end of March. The Journal has denied the espionage charges.