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The Morgan PawPrint

The Student News Site of The Morgan School

The Morgan PawPrint

The Student News Site of The Morgan School

The Morgan PawPrint

Evan Gershkovich- American Journalist Detained

Isolated in Russia’s Most Notorious Prison

Evan Gershkovich is a 32 -year-old journalist who writes for the Wall Street Journal. On March 29, 2023, Evan was arrested and detained by Russia’s Federal Security Service while on a reporting trip to the Ural Mountains, in the city of Yekaterinburg, Russia. The US citizen was accused of espionage. Evan’s family, the Wall Street Journal, and the U.S. Government boldly turned down these allegations. According to the Wall Street Journal, Evan Gershkovich was the first American accused of espionage and detained since the Cold War. Evan is currently being held in Russia’s Lefortovo prison since March 2023; spending 90% of his day in a small cell.

View of inside a prison cell at Lefortovo (upper left), Ariel view of prison (middle), map of Russia (right), front of prison (bottom left), inside Lefortovo prison (bottom right) (Olivia Ruotolo)

The Lefortovo prison in Moscow is one of Russia’s notorious prisons. According to the Washington Post article “A rare look inside the notorious Russian jail holding an American journalist” by by Mary Ilyushina , this prison serves as a pretrial detention center, and is a symbol of oppression and control. The structure of the prison is designed to cause fear, isolation, and despair. The cells are set up in a K shape, and all sound is muted by carpet. Valentin Moiseyev, a Russian diplomat who served, described it as “utter crypt-like silence…one that is oppressive and makes your ears ring.” According to the Wall Street Journal article “‘You Are Completely Alone’: Inside the Infamous Russian Prison Holding Evan Gershkovich”, there was a prisoner named Andrei Soldatov, who served time in Lefortovo. When describing the prison, he said, “you cannot see anybody, and you are completely alone. There is not a noise, nothing…It really makes you crazy.” It is designed in a way to prevent inmates from seeing each other, a type of isolation that makes this prison one of Russia’s worst. Lefortovo was one of the main sites used by the secret police during Joseph Stalin’s Great Purge in the 1930s. It was a place of terrible interrogations, torture, and executions.

From PBS, an interview was conducted with Evan’s sister, Danielle Gershkovich. Despite her brother’s struggles, she said, “I’m so amazed by him, He still is himself…we write letters to each other once a week, and they’re still so full of humor.” She understands how hard he works to keep his spirit up as well. “He has a very strict schedule for himself. He reads, writes, he meditates, and he works really hard to stay healthy.” The Biden Administration has promised Danielle and her family that they will do all they can to get Evan back. “The White House is taking this very seriously, and there’s a team of experts working around the clock.”

On March 29, 2024, President Joe Biden released a statement on the detainment of Evan found at The White House.

“Today we mark a painful anniversary: one year of American journalist Evan Gershkovich’s wrongful detention in Russia.

Journalism is not a crime, and Evan went to Russia to do his job as a reporter —risking his safety to shine the light of truth on Russia’s brutal aggression against Ukraine. Shortly after his wholly unjust and illegal detention, he drafted a letter to his family from prison, writing: “I am not losing hope.”

As I have told Evan’s parents, I will never give up hope either. We will continue working every day to secure his release. We will continue to denounce and impose costs for Russia’s appalling attempts to use Americans as bargaining chips. And we will continue to stand strong against all those who seek to attack the press or target journalists—the pillars of free society.

To Evan, to Paul Whelan, and to all Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad: We are with you. And we will never stop working to bring you home.”

According to ABC News, Vladimir Putin is open to a prisoner swap. In an interview conducted by former Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson, Putin said he thinks “an agreement can be reached” although Putin didn’t state who he was negotiating for in the swap. In the Moscow City Court, Evan’s defense appeal was rejected for the third time. If he is convicted, he may spend 20 years in prison. A statement was released by the Wall Street Journal that said, “Evan is a journalist, and journalism is not a crime…we continue to demand his immediate release. We are 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.”

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About the Contributor
Olivia Ruotolo
Olivia Ruotolo, Reporter, Writer, Photographer
Hi! My name is Olivia Ruotolo, and I’m a junior here at Morgan. This is my second time taking Journalism, and I am very excited to continue writing, reporting, and covering different sport and school events for the Morgan Pawprint. I am on the Morgan Girls Soccer team, Basketball team, and the Outdoor Track and Field team. I am also a part of Spirit Squad. For the Pawprint, I am an editor, videographer, and work as a photographer. 

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