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The United States recently put forward a substantial proposal for the release of Paul Whelan and Evan Gershkovich, two Americans detained in Russia, but it was rejected, according to State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller.
This proposal, details of which were not disclosed, represents a significant effort by the US to secure the release of Whelan and Gershkovich, who are considered “wrongfully detained” by the US and have been charged with espionage in Russia, charges both men deny.
Miller expressed frustration over the need for such proposals, stating, “In recent weeks, we made a new and significant proposal to secure Paul and Evan’s release. That proposal was rejected by Russia. We shouldn’t have to make these proposals. They never should have been arrested in the first place. They should both be released immediately.” He emphasized the ongoing commitment of the US government to secure their release, adding, “It will not deter us from continuing to do everything we can to try and bring both of them home.”
Paul Whelan, arrested in Russia in 2018, was convicted of espionage in 2020 and sentenced to 16 years. Both he and the US government have denied the spy allegations. Journalist Gershkovich was arrested in March 2023 in Yekaterinburg on espionage charges, with his employer, the Wall Street Journal, and the White House denouncing the charges.
The US government’s designation of “wrongfully detained” implies that it views the charges against both men as unfounded and politically motivated.