Parents of reporter Evan Gershkovich speak out 1 year into his Russian detainment: Exclusive

Written by on March 25, 2024

ABC News

This week marks one year since The Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was arrested in Russia on espionage charges while on a reporting trip.

A year into what the U.S. State Department has declared to be a wrongful detainment, Evan Gershkovich’s parents say they are optimistic.

“We know that the U.S. government is taking Evan’s case very seriously,” his mother, Ella Milman, told “Good Morning America” co-anchor George Stephanopoulos in an exclusive sit-down interview.

“I think if you let the pessimism in … the game is over,” she said. “And our saying in the family is we’re moving forward. Moving forward.”

“And he says that he’s fighting. He’s fighting,” she added.

The 32-year-old American was working as a reporter for the Moscow bureau of The Wall Street Journal and had been accredited by Russia’s foreign ministry to work as a journalist when he was arrested on March 29, 2023, on espionage charges. Evan Gershkovich, the U.S. government and The Wall Street Journal firmly deny the allegations.

He has pleaded not guilty and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. A Russian court denied his latest appeal on Feb. 20, extending his pretrial detainment through March 30, more than a year after his initial arrest.

In December, the U.S. State Department said that Russia rejected a proposal that would have included the release of Evan Gershkovich and former Marine Paul Whelan. Russian President Vladimir Putin has recently suggested that he could be open to a prisoner swap involving the journalist. In an interview with former Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson last month, Putin said he believed “an agreement can be reached” on his release.

His parents said they are encouraged by that.

“We were happy that both governments have expressed willingness to negotiate,” his father, Mikhail Gershkovich, told Stephanopoulos. “We are confident that [the White House is] doing everything they can, and we want them to continue to do that.”

Evan Gershkovich’s parents both attended President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address in February, during which the president said the administration is “working around the clock to bring home Evan” and other Americans being “unjustly detained by the Russians.”

His father said the address was a sign that “everybody in the U.S. government — the Senate and Congress and the White House — are taking the freedom of the press seriously, and that’s important.”

“We’re still holding up,” Milman said. “We have President Biden’s promise delivered to us personally, and in the State of the Union.”

The Wall Street Journal Editor-in-Chief Emma Tucker told Stephanopoulos she believes that their reporter will be eventually freed.

“Evan will be released, but it’s complicated to get there,” she said. “There are a lot of different people and governments involved. So I think, you know, we just have to be patient, and optimistic.”

Tucker said their main focus has been keeping his story “front of mind.”

“To remind people that an innocent journalist is behind bars, in prison, for doing his job,” she said.

Evan Gershkovich’s parents said they have continued to write their son letters and receive updates on him from Lynne Tracy, the U.S. ambassador to Russia. He also sends his parents and friends gifts, they said.

“He remembers his friends’ birthdays. We received flowers from him for International Women’s Day on March 8,” Milman said. “He really cares. He wants to thank people for their care about him, for keeping his story front and center.”

His father has even been playing long-distance chess with him.

“He’s teaching me,” Mikhail Gershkovich said. “It’s a friendly game. It’s not a competition, and especially because he is so much better than I am at it.”

“I will be just happy to play a face-to-face game of chess with him,” he said.

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