Putin hints at possible prisoner swap for detained WSJ journalist Evan Gershkovich

He also brought up the conviction of a "patriotic" Russian hitman in Germany

ByRiley Hoffman ABCNews logo
Friday, February 9, 2024
Putin hints at possible prisoner swap for detained American journalist Evan Gershkovich
Putin's comments came during a lengthy and at times ponderous interview with American right-wing pundit Tucker Carlson.

RUSSIA -- Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia is open to a prisoner swap for Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who's been detained for over 300 days in the country.

In an interview published on his website on Thursday, former Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson pressed Putin if he was willing to release Gershkovich as a sign of decency, to which Putin said he believed "an agreement can be reached."

"We have done so many gestures of goodwill out of decency that I think we have run out of them," Putin said.

Carlson went on to ask Putin about his country imprisoning the reporter.

"The guy is obviously not a spy, he's a kid ... and maybe he was breaking your law in some way, but he's not a super spy. ... He's being held hostage," Carlson said to Putin. "Maybe it's not fair to ask for an exchange."

In the two-hour interview that took place at the Kremlin, the Russian president said a prisoner swap was being discussed between the United States and Russian special services.

Putin didn't specify who Russia was seeking in the swap but referred to a person serving a sentence in an allied country of the U.S.

Russia has previously expressed interest in a deal that would secure the release of Russian citizen Vadim Krasikov, a convicted assassin who has been serving a life sentence in Germany since 2019.

"I do not rule out that the person you refer to, Mr. Gershkovich, may return to his motherland," Putin said. "At the end of the day, it does not make sense to keep him in prison in Russia. We want the U.S. special services to think about how they can contribute to achieving the goals our special services are pursuing."

Gershkovich has now been in Russian detention for over 10 months, held on spying charges that The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. and dozens of international media organizations have condemned as false.

Gershkovich lost his third appeal in October 2023 and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

In a statement released Thursday evening, the Wall Street Journal said, "Evan is a journalist, and journalism is not a crime. Any portrayal to the contrary is total fiction. Evan was unjustly arrested and has been wrongfully detained by Russia for nearly a year for doing his job, and we continue to demand his immediate release."

"We're encouraged to see Russia's desire for a deal that brings Evan home, and we hope this will lead to his rapid release and return to his family and our newsroom," the statement continued.

Gershkovich who grew up in New Jersey to Russian-speaking Jewish emigres, has been a Moscow correspondent since 2017, working first for The Moscow Times and Agence France Presse before joining the Journal in 2022.

ABC News' Patrick Reeval and William Gretsky contributed to this report.