Russia refused to negotiate a prisoner exchange with the United States, which was pursuing the release of Evan Gershkovich and Paul Whelan. The former is a reporter for The Wall Street Journal who has been imprisoned for more than 250 days in Russia, while the latter is accused of espionage and has been detained since 2018. According to the State Department, the U.S. offer had been "significant."
Matthew Miller, spokesman for the State Department, confirmed the news to the press on Monday. "In recent weeks, we made a new and significant proposal to secure Paul and Evan's release. That proposal was rejected by Russia," he said.
According to reports, Washington's offer included a prisoner exchange between the two countries, similar to what happened in 2022. Whelan had already shown his dissatisfaction when the Biden Administration negotiated the release of Brittney Griner, star player of the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA).
"I have nothing against Brittney, but I am greatly disappointed that more has not been done to secure my release. I was arrested for a crime that never occurred. I don't understand why I'm still sitting here. I was led to believe that things were moving in the right direction and that the governments were negotiating and that something would happen fairly soon", said the 52-year-old.
In Gershkovich's case, he recently celebrated his 32nd birthday while in Russian custody. The Russian Foreign Ministry accredited him to work as a journalist at the time of his arrest.
His mother spoke to the press on Tuesday and lamented the situation while holding Joe Biden responsible for the fact that her son is still unable to set foot on American soil.
"We had President Biden's promise to do whatever it takes to bring Evan back. He also told us that he relates to us as a parent, he feels our pain, and his words are in my ears every single day. But it's been 250 days, and Evan is not here," Ella Milman told Fox News.
Both men are U.S. citizens and are considered wrongfully detained after being charged with espionage. Indeed, Whelan was convicted of espionage in 2020 and sentenced to serve 16 years in a penal colony.