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Biden says he is working to secure release of Evan Gershkovich on 1-year anniversary of detention in Russia

President Biden said Friday, on the one-year anniversary of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich’s detention in Russia, that the U.S. government is working every day to secure his release and is ‘not giving up.’

Gershkovich, 32, was arrested on espionage charges for allegedly collecting secret military information while he was on a work trip to the Russian city of Yekaterinburg. The Federal Security Service said he was acting on U.S. orders to obtain state secrets, but no evidence was provided to support the accusation.

The U.S. government, The Wall Street Journal and Gershkovich all reject accusations that he was working for the U.S. government to collect Russian secrets, with U.S. officials saying he was wrongfully detained.

‘Journalism is not a crime, and Evan went to Russia to do his job as a reporter —risking his safety to shine the light of truth on Russia’s brutal aggression against Ukraine,’ Biden said in a statement Friday. ‘Shortly after his wholly unjust and illegal detention, he drafted a letter to his family from prison, writing: ‘I am not losing hope.”

‘As I have told Evan’s parents, I will never give up hope either,’ he continued. ‘We will continue working every day to secure his release. We will continue to denounce and impose costs for Russia’s appalling attempts to use Americans as bargaining chips. And we will continue to stand strong against all those who seek to attack the press or target journalists — the pillars of free society.’

The Wall Street Journal on Friday left a blank space on the front page of its newspaper with Gershkovich’s image in the space where the image of an article’s author would be and a headline that read: ‘His Story Should be Here.’

A recent court hearing offered little new information in Gershkovich’s case. He was ordered to remain behind bars pending trial until at least June 30, the fifth extension of his detention.

‘I admire the hell out of him,’ Biden told reporters Friday when asked about Gershkovich’s case before traveling from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland to the Camp David presidential retreat. ‘We’re not giving up.’

Biden said in his statement that the U.S. government was working to free all Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad, including Gershkovich and Paul Whelan, a corporate executive from Michigan who is also locked up in Russia on espionage charges.

Whelan was arrested in 2018 in Russia and, two years later, was sentenced to 16 years in prison. Whelan, who said he traveled to Moscow to attend a friend’s wedding, has denied the allegations.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Gershkovich and Whelan have ‘remained resilient despite the circumstances of living in Russian detention.’

‘People are not bargaining chips,’ Blinken said in a statement. ‘Russia should end its practice of arbitrarily detaining individuals for political leverage and should immediately release Evan and Paul.’

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This post appeared first on FOX NEWS

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