House Speaker Kevin McCarthy called on Russia Thursday to release a Wall Street Journal reporter detained on espionage charges — and suggested the Biden administration’s prisoner swap to rescue WNBA star Brittney Griner may have encouraged Moscow tyrant Vladimir Putin.
”Russia needs to release this journalist,” McCarthy (R-Calif.) told Fox News Digital at an event on Capitol Hill. “It just shows what Putin is doing.”
“And it also shows, when the president pays ransom, they’ll go after and take more Americans,” the speaker said of the detention of Evan Gershkovich.
In December, the US exchanged convicted international arms dealer Viktor Bout, known as “the Merchant of Death,” for Griner’s release from a Russian penal colony.
Griner had been held for 10 months since her arrest on Feb. 17, 2022 at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport for allegedly smuggling vape cartridges with cannabis oil in her luggage.
McCarthy said Gershkovich, a US citizen whose parents emigrated from the Soviet Union, had a right to be working in Russia.
“This is a journalist who has a right to do their job. And for Putin to try anything else, it shows how deadly he is,” McCarthy said, adding that what the Russian leader “is doing is against every realm of the law.”
The Journal said Gershkovich, 31, lost contact with his editors while on assignment in the city of Yekaterinburg.
The journalist pleaded not guilty to the charges in a Moscow court on Thursday and was ordered held until May 29.
The Wall Street Journal called Gershkovich a “trusted and dedicated reporter” and “vehemently” denied the allegations.