'Need to stand firm': New York Times editorial board calls for immediate release of WSJ reporter

'Need to stand firm': New York Times editorial board calls for immediate release of WSJ reporter
Evan Gershkovich, Image via WSJ/Screengrab.

The New York Times editorial board published an op-ed Thursday, April 6, calling for Russian President Vladimir Putin to release Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich from detainment.

Gershkovich, who The Times notes is a former news assistant for the publication, and the child of Russian immigrants, has been detained in Yekaterinburg since March 29 for what the board asserts is "to demonstrate Mr. Putin's disdain for the West and its democratic institutions."

The espionage charge the 31-year-old, "widely respected" journalist faces — without evidence — could land him in prison for "up to 20 years."

READ MORE: 'Let him go': President Joe Biden calls on Russia to free WSJ reporter

The board writes:

The Kremlin's readiness to seize an accredited journalist as a hostage demonstrates again why the United States and its allies need to stand firm to block Mr. Putin's designs on Ukraine. Ukraine has chosen to be part of a Europe that is stable, peaceful and governed according to rules and law. Mr. Putin would supplant that with fear and force.

Per The Washington Post, a group of nearly 200 Russian journalists and activists also shared their support for Gershkovich by calling for his release in a letter dated Tuesday, April 4.

In the letter, the journalists call the reporter's detainment "preposterous and unjust," The Post reports.

According to The Times, the "last known" case similar to Gershkovich's occurred "in 1986, when Nicholas Daniloff of U.S. News & World Report was arrested and accused of the same charge, which he denied, only to be swapped within weeks for an employee of the Soviet mission to the United Nations."

READ MORE: 'Check the torture cellar': Russian mercenary boss leaves U.S. reporter disturbing message about a 'corpse'

The board writes:

In the years since Mr. Daniloff's ordeal, hostage-taking in foreign countries has increased so much that the United States government has created an office, the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, to focus on the release of Americans classified as 'wrongfully detained' in foreign countries.

Per The Daily Beast, Putin ousted a top Russian official — Colonel-General Rustam Muradov — Thursday, possibly signaling "more heads could soon roll in the Kremlin's military ranks."

In the same vein, The NYT board points out people are being punished "not because they committed a crime but because they got in Mr. Putin's hair, or he needed a hostage, or he wanted to send a signal," adding in order to meet his goals, Putin "has violated all accepted norms against targeting noncombatants, including countless attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure and the abduction of children in Ukraine," characterizing "any person or organization with any ties abroad" as a "foreign agent," or "enemy."

The Daily Beast reports:

The apparent firing of Muradov, though, is likely only the beginning, the intelligence assessment notes. The dismissal comes as Russia's military continues to wage battles in Eastern Ukraine with no significant gains, even as Moscow had hoped to seize all of Donbas by March. But Russia's ability to make headway on the ground has been faltering. In addition to Vuhledar, Russia has failed to seize Bakhmut, an effort that has come with significant casualties. Kremlin forces have only seized three other towns this year, according to The New York Times.

READ MORE: Former Kremlin security official: 'War criminal' Vladimir Putin has 'lost touch with the world'

In addition to Gershkovich, The Times urges President Joe Biden and his administration "to continue to do everything in its power to obtain the release of two other Americans in custody: Paul Whelan, a former Marine with U.S., British, Canadian and Irish citizenship," who "has been detained in Russia since December 2018," and "Marc Fogel, a teacher at the Anglo-American School in Moscow," who was arrested in August 2021 and sentenced to 14 years in prison after Russian customs officials discovered a small amount of marijuana in his luggage."

The board adds Fogel asserted the marijuana was prescribed by U.S. physicians.

READ MORE: Why Putin may be trying to 'weaken' a 'paramilitary mercenary' group he hired to fight in Ukraine: report

The New York Times' editorial board's full op-ed is available at this link (subscription required). The Washington Post's report is here (subscription required). The Daily Beast's report is here (subscription required).

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