US envoy to Russia meets with detained journalist Gershkovich -WSJ

(Reuters) – The U.S. ambassador to Russia was granted access on Monday to jailed Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, the newspaper reported, the second such visit since his pre-trial detention in March on espionage charges he denies.

A judge on June 22 rejected an application for Gershkovich, 31, to be released from a Moscow prison while awaiting trial. Ambassador Lynne Tracy has accused Russia of conducting “hostage diplomacy.”

Russia has said Gershkovich was caught trying to obtain military secrets while on a trip to the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, but has provided no detail supporting that assertion. The Wall Street Journal denies the allegations.

The newspaper did not provide details about Tracy’s meeting with Gershkovich. The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Tracy last met with Gershkovich in April, after his March 29 arrest.

Russia has agreed in the past to high-profile prisoner exchanges with the United States, most recently last year when basketball star Brittney Griner, sentenced on a drugs charge, was traded for convicted Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout.

Moscow has said no exchange could take place in Gershkovich’s case until a verdict has been reached. No date has so far been set for his trial.

Relations between Russia and the United States are the lowest for more than 60 years because of Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. (This story has been refiled to change “on Thursday” to June 22 in paragraph 2)

(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed and Rami Ayyub; editing by Grant McCool)