MOSCOW: Russian president Vladimir Putin said in an interview aired on Thursday that it might be possible to free Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who is awaiting trial on spying charges, in exchange for a Russian prisoner.
Putin, speaking to US television host Tucker Carlson, said Russian and American special services were discussing the case and had made some progress.
The Russian president suggested that in return, Moscow wanted Germany to free Vadim Krasikov, who was convicted of the 2019 murder of a Chechen dissident in Berlin.
Gershkovich was arrested on March 29, 2023 in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg and accused of trying to obtain defence secrets. He and his newspaper strongly reject the charges and the US government has designated him as wrongfully detained.
“We are willing to solve it but there are certain terms being discussed via special services channels. I believe an agreement can be reached,” said Putin, stressing that Russia’s partners needed to take what he called reciprocal steps.
“There have been many successful examples of these talks crowned with success. Probably this is going to be crowned with success as well but we have to come to an agreement,” said Putin, who was speaking through an interpreter.
Russia and the US have agreed high-profile prisoner swaps in the past – most recently in December 2022 when Moscow traded Brittney Griner, a US basketball star convicted of a drugs offence in Russia, for Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout.
Putin, without mentioning Krasikov by name, referred to a person who “due to patriotic sentiments, eliminated a bandit in one of the European capitals”.
Last month a Moscow court extended Gershkovich’s custody by two months. Putin said the reporter had been “caught red handed when he was secretly getting confidential information”.