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WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovich's family seeks his release from Russia

Scripps News sat down with Danielle Gershkovich as her brother's detention by Russia approaches the one-year mark.
WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovich's family seeks his release from Russia
Posted at 6:33 PM, Feb 20, 2024

Next month will mark one year since Russian authorities took American reporter Evan Gershkovich into custody, placing him in a Moscow jail. They accuse Gershkovich of espionage — a charge that both he and his employer, the Wall Street Journal, deny.

The U.S. State Department considers Gershkovich to be "wrongfully detained."

During all of this, his family has been holding on to hope that he will come home soon.

Glimpses of Gershkovich — appearing just a handful of times in a Russian court — are the only way his sister, Danielle, has laid eyes on him during the past year.

"I see my brother be so strong, and that means that I have to be strong," she said. "So, whatever I'm going through, it's harder for him."

Scripps News sat down with Danielle Gershkovich as her brother's detention by Russia approaches the one-year mark. She is his big sister.

"But he jokes and calls me his little sister because he's taller than me," she said with a laugh. "We're so proud of Evan. He's doing the best he can under the circumstances. I get letters from him, and he's making me laugh. He teases me. He seems to still have his spirits up. So, we're incredibly proud he has the strength to do that. But he works very, very hard to maintain just his spirits."

She said he does that by going through a daily routine, including exercising in his cell and writing letters to his family and friends. The private letters are a lifeline for both of them, though they are exchanged in an unusual way.

"It's still a little mysterious to me, but I get them like they're photographed. So, he handwrites them, and then I get a photograph of the letter," she said. "I'll write to him about anything. Even things he doesn't want to hear about, like horror movies I've watched. I write about celebrity gossip — just anything I think that might bring a smile to his face. And he's very funny in the letters. It feels like a Christmas present every time I get one from him."

SEE MORE: Putin urges US to push Ukraine talks, hints at swap of jailed reporter

When asked if she was worried when her brother first moved to Russia for work, she said her concerns grew over time.

"I've always been a little bit worried. It's hard to have him abroad, but I definitely think after the war broke out, that's when I was very nervous," she said. "But, you know, he would just reassure me — he's an accredited journalist, he's an American citizen and he was going to be OK."

Yet, as the war between Russia and Ukraine waged on, Russian authorities took Gershkovich into custody while he was on a reporting trip inside Russia.

They accused him of espionage, which he, the Wall Street Journal and the U.S. government deny.

In a recent interview, Russian president Vladimir Putin was asked about Gershkovich and whether a deal could be struck with the U.S. for his release.

"We are willing to solve it, but there are certain terms being discussed via special services channels," Putin said. "I believe an agreement can be reached."

Danielle Gershkovich said, upon hearing that, she wanted to stay positive.

"Well, I'm just staying optimistic," she said. "That's wonderful that there may be a path forward to getting my brother home, and we just continue to put our faith in the Biden administration and President Biden's promise to our family, that they're working on this."

She had one message for Putin, on behalf of her brother.

"My brother is not a spy. He's a journalist. And he's my brother — I want him home. Please. Whatever, whatever it would take," she said. "Please, I just want my brother home."

It's a hope she would like to see become reality as soon as possible — a big sister who is still trying to look out for her little brother, despite the distance.

"I just can't wait for the day where I hear his voice, and I get to just crush the air out of his lungs," she said. "I'm hugging him so tightly."

Evan Gershkovich's next court appearance in Russia is set for March 30, coming just a year after he was first jailed.

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