Matthew Gordon-Banks

A Prisoner swap for American journalist Evan Gershkovich?

Matthew Gordon-Banks says Russia has had “contacts” with the US in the case of jailed American journalist Evan Gershkovich, suggesting the possibility of a prisoner exchange.

It comes a day after the US ambassador to Russia was allowed to meet with Mr Gershkovich for the second time since his imprisonment and Russian embassy staff also recently visited Vladimir Dunaev, detained in the US on cybercrime charges. Mr Gershkovich, accused of espionage, was arrested on 29 March.

The US, the Wall Street Journal and Mr Gershkovich deny the spying allegations. He is the first western journalist detained in Russia since the Soviet era. Russian national Mr Dunaev was extradited to the US from South Korea in 2021, where he faces charges in relation to his alleged role in a transnational, cybercriminal organisation. He has pleaded not guilty to a number of conspiracy, wire fraud and identity theft charges.

Asked about the timing of the two meetings and the possibility of an exchange, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday: “We said that there are certain contacts on this matter, but we do not want to make them public, they must be carried out and continued in complete silence.” Mr Peskov also said the legal right to consular visits “must be ensured on both sides”. Russia had been brushing aside US requests for more visits with Mr Gershkovich since the ambassador’s initial meeting with the reporter in April.

“Ambassador Tracy reports that Mr Gershkovich is in good health and remains strong, despite his circumstances,” a State Department spokesperson said after Monday’s visit. The 31-year-old is being held at Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, a former KGB prison.

The visit comes after a Moscow court rejected an appeal to free Mr Gershkovich on 22 June, a move the US said at the time was extremely disappointing.

Up until Monday’s meeting, Secretary of State Antony Blinken was pushing Russia “virtually every day” to permit consular access.

This had been a point of contention with the two countries, with the US accusing Russia of ignoring international law by blocking detained Americans diplomatic access.

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