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Is a prisoner swap being discussed for a U.S. reporter detained in Russia?


Today marks 100 days since Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was detained in Russia. Moscow accuses the journalist of espionage, a charge that he, the paper and U.S. officials vehemently deny. Gershkovich is the first Western journalist to be held in Russia since the Soviet era, and the charge could send him to prison for up to 20 years. But there are some new reports that a prisoner swap may be under consideration.

Earlier, I spoke with Emma Tucker, who is the Wall Street Journal's editor-in-chief. We spoke after the U.S. ambassador to Russia was able to meet with Gershkovich this week for only the second time since the reporter was detained. So I started by asking her what she was able to find out about how he's doing.

EMMA TUCKER: We were really relieved and pleased that Lynne Tracy was granted the visit because since April the 17 he had had no consular access whatsoever, which is really unprecedented even in a situation like this. What we do know, according to her, is that he's doing OK, he's in good health, and he's in relatively good spirits. When he appeared in court a couple of weeks ago, his parents were there, and there were cameras inside the court. And I have to say, you look at him and you think, wow, here's someone who's been in prison nigh on 100 days, and he's managing to look cheerful. He's managing to smile to his parents. He looks animated. He's clearly cracking jokes. But that's the kind of guy he is.

MARTIN: So you have not had any direct contact with him?

TUCKER: No, we have no direct contact with him. The only contact we have with him is via his Russian lawyers who are doing a magnificent job on the ground in Moscow. We have a video on our website to mark 100 days - another interview with his parents.

MARTIN: Well, speaking of his parents, his parents both fled the Soviet Union. How are they doing, if I may ask?

TUCKER: They are very resilient, but as you can imagine, it's traumatic that the country that they fled from has now captured their son. Their two children, Evan and his older sister Danielle, were born in the U.S. They were born and brought up in New Jersey, and they were educated here.

Evan himself loves Russia. He loves the people. He loves the culture. And this is what made him such an effective reporter while he was in Russia because he could really navigate Russian society thanks to his background.

MARTIN: You mentioned that his Russian lawyers have been in contact with him. What do we know about the current state of his legal proceedings?

TUCKER: He is currently on pretrial detention at Lefortovo Prison in Moscow. The last time he appeared in court, that pretrial detention was extended. The U.S. government then appealed that extension, which is why he was back in court. We had very, very low expectations for that hearing, and no special concessions were granted. He remains behind bars on pretrial detention. The next time we expect to see him in court is the end of August.

MARTIN: So there are new reports of a possible prisoner swap that has been sort of hinted at by the Kremlin. Have you heard such reports yourself? And what might that look like?

TUCKER: I saw the comments from the Kremlin spokesman. We don't know what he was talking about. We have no idea. We have heard nothing official on this front. And frankly, it's very difficult to know what's going to happen. It's all, at this stage, speculation. We're dealing with Russia here. It could pan out any which way. Our focus is on Evan, his well-being and the need to get him out as soon as possible.

MARTIN: Emma Tucker is the Wall Street Journal's editor-in-chief. We're talking about the continued detention of Evan Gershkovich. He has been held now in Moscow for 100 days. Emma Tucker, thank you so much for talking with us today.

TUCKER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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