Family of imprisoned American journalist speaks out after year in Russian prison | Trending Viral hub


Even as a child, Evan Gershkovich seemed destined to be a journalist. He was always curious, he liked good stories and he was deeply interested in Russia, the country from which his parents had emigrated.

He was there as Russia instituted the biggest crackdown on the free press in decades, one that would ensnare him and leave him awaiting trial on espionage charges that many in the West denounce as punishment for doing his job. NBC News spoke with his family and some of his closest friends as his detention turned one year old on Friday.

Gershkovich, 32, was arrested last March while reporting for The Wall Street Journal in the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg. The Kremlin said he was captured. “caught red handed” reception “secret information,” But to this day, Russia has provided no evidence to support the accusation. Gershkovich and the Journal deny all charges against them.

He is being held in Moscow’s infamous Lefortovo prison, known for its harsh conditions. His multiple appeals have been rejected in court, and in his latest appearance this week his pretrial detention was again extended. until at least June 30. The Kremlin said Thursday that it has no information about when his trial could begin.

Gershkovich often smiles and appears in good spirits during his court appearances, but a year in custody, without much promising resolution, is weighing heavily on his family and friends.

“It’s been difficult,” his father, Mikhail, told NBC News. “He spent the four seasons there, he spent his birthday and all the holidays. “We want him home as soon as possible.”

Gershkovich’s parents left the Soviet Union and moved to the United States during the Cold War. He and his sister Danielle grew up speaking Russian at home and the family calls him “Vanya”, the diminutive of his Russian name, Ivan.

Gershkovich’s mother, Ella Milman, said her curiosity and interest in Russia fueled her decision to move there in 2017 to work as a journalist, an opportunity the family was excited about.

Everything changed when Russia invaded Ukraine and Gershkovich, like many other foreign journalists wary of new laws criminalizing criticism of the Russian military, moved abroad, although he regularly returned to Russia to report.

Last March, Milman said he received a call from Evan, telling him he needed to finish a story and would return to London, where he lived, the following week. The next call he received about Evan was from an editor at the Journal, informing him that Evan had not reported in after his assignment.

Then the news broke: a foreign journalist was arrested in Russia. “It was a total shock to me,” Milman said.

“My heart dropped to my stomach,” Evan’s older sister, Danielle, said of the moment she found out about his arrest. She said that she is very close to her brother, who has always been the responsible one growing up, but can often be a “goofball.”

They write letters to each other now, she said, and he often tells her he’s worried about how the family is coping, but he also makes her laugh. “He’s so strong,” she added. “He hasn’t lost heart.”

Biden administration considers Gershkovich “unjustly detained” and has been actively trying to get him out. Moscow noted early On that, he may be willing to discuss a possible trade once a verdict is issued. But in December, the State Department saying Russia rejected “a new and significant proposal” to secure his release.

His arrest unnerved international news organizations still operating in Russia. Since his arrest, another Russian-American journalist, Also KurmashevaHe has also been arrested, along with several others American citizensprompting accusations that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been creating a reserve of Americans to exchange for Russian citizens imprisoned abroad.

He hinted at in an interview last month that Gershkovich could be exchanged for a Russian hitman imprisoned in Germany, and a deal that sources told NBC News was in the process of freeing opposition leader Alexei Navalny before his death in prison last month, would also have involved Gershkovich.

But for now, Gershkovich remains behind bars and his family and friends await news.

Pjotr ​​Sauer, a friend of Gershkovich and a Russian reporter for The Guardian, said he writes to Evan every week and that almost every letter is an update on Arsenal, the English team they both fervently support and are currently enjoying. his best period since Evan. He was a football-crazed teenager in New Jersey. Sauer told NBC News that he reads and writes a lot in prison, but he is confined to a small cell, with only an hour a day to walk around. Still, his sense of humor and optimism are reflected in his letters, he said.

“It gives me a lot of strength to see that he is fine, given the conditions he is in,” he added. “He’s not broken, mentally or physically.”

    Evan Gershkovich was escorted from the Moscow court on January 26, 2024.
Gershkovich, after losing an appeal against his arrest.Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP

What distinguished Gershkovich as a foreign journalist was his deep knowledge of Russia and his desire to discover the ins and outs of what is happening in the country, said Masha Barzunova, a friend and independent Russian journalist. Vanya, as she calls him, knew the risks, but she thought it was important to continue reporting there.

Journalists and friends celebrated that dedication to their work this week with a 24-hour read-a-thon broadcast live from the Wall Street Journal that demonstrated just how widely spread their stories were, particularly their coverage of the conflicting emotions of fighting Russian recruits. in Ukraine and the views of many different Russian voices on the war on the home front.

His arrest, which Borzunova said she considers a hostage situation, became one of many defining moments signaling changes within Russia in the past two years. “He’s holding up well, but he can’t continue for that long,” she said.

Since his arrest, Gershkovich’s parents have gone to see him in Russia twice: once in prison and once in court through a glass box, with guards supervising the visit both times. Otherwise, they communicate with Evan by letters and through his Russian lawyers. They know that his friends deliver fresh fruits and vegetables to him in prison and that he is in good physical health.

They are grateful for the support from the Biden administration, but say it has been too long and they are concerned about his mental health after a year in custody.

“Evan’s not here,” Milman said. “We knew it was going to be a marathon, but we were still hoping it would be sooner.”

For now, the family chooses to remain optimistic and put their faith in the United States government, he said, because “pessimism will end all hope.”

When asked what she would say to Putin if given the chance, Evan’s sister Danielle said she would try to convey the “human cost” of her brother’s plight. “We miss him so much,” she said. “We don’t want them to take away another day of freedom. And we want him at home.”

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