WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Democratic and Republican leaders of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee announced a resolution on Friday calling for the immediate release of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich from Russia, where he was arrested six months ago on spying charges that he denies.
The resolution, backed by 27 of the 100 U.S. senators, draws attention to the continuing detention of Gershkovich, 32, who was arrested on March 29 in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg on charges of espionage that carry up to 20 years in prison.
A Moscow court on Tuesday declined to consider his latest appeal against his pre-trial detention.
“Evan Gershkovich, a journalist with the Wall Street Journal, has been wrongfully detained in Russia for merely for doing his job: reporting facts and shedding light on President Putin’s bogus rationale for his illegal war against Ukraine,” said Senator Ben Cardin, the committee's Democratic chairman.
“Freedom of the press is critical to holding governments accountable around the world," said Senator Jim Risch, the panel's top Republican.
Russia has said the reporter was caught "red-handed" in Yekaterinburg, where the FSB security service said he was trying to obtain military secrets. It has not provided any detail to support that assertion.
The U.S. has accused Russia of using Gershkovich to conduct hostage diplomacy, at a time when relations between the two countries are at their lowest point in more than 60 years because of the conflict in Ukraine.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Marguerita Choy)