The Kremlin is open to talks on a possible prisoner swap involving detained US journalist Evan Gershkovich

MOSCOW (AP) — The Kremlin on Tuesday opened the door to contact with the United States over a possible prisoner swap that could potentially involve jailed Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, but reiterated that such talks must take place. out of public view.

Asked whether Monday’s consular visits to Gershkovich, who has been held behind bars in Moscow since March on charges of espionage, and Vladimir Dunaev, a Russian citizen detained in the United States for cybercrime, could potentially herald a prisoner swap, the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow and Washington have addressed the issue.

“We said there were some contacts on the subject, but we don’t want them to be discussed in public,” Peskov said in a conference call with reporters. “They must be executed and proceed in complete silence.”

He did not give further details, but added that “the legal right to consular contacts must be ensured on both sides”.

US Ambassador to Moscow Lynne Tracy was allowed to visit Gershkovich on Monday for the first time since April. The US Embassy did not immediately provide further information.

Gershkovich, 31, was arrested in the city of Yekaterinburg while on a reporting trip to Russia. He is being held in Lefortovo prison in Moscow, known for its harsh conditions. A Moscow court last week upheld a decision to keep him in detention until August 30.

Gershkovich and his employer deny the allegations, and the US government has declared him wrongfully detained. His arrest rocked journalists in Russia where authorities have offered no evidence to support the espionage charges.

Gershkovich is the first American journalist to face espionage charges in Russia since September 1986, when Nicholas Daniloff, Moscow correspondent for US News and World Report, was arrested by the KGB. Daniloff was released 20 days later in an exchange for an employee of the Soviet Union mission to the UN who was arrested by the FBI, also charged with espionage.

Dunaev was extradited from South Korea on US cybercrime charges and is in custody in Ohio. Russian diplomats were granted consular access to him on Monday for the first time since his arrest in 2021, Nadezhda Shumova, head of the consular section at the Russian embassy, ​​said in remarks carried by the Tass news agency.

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