Johnson hosting Gershkovich’s parents at State of the Union address

FILE – Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich stands in a glass cage in a courtroom at the Moscow City Court, in Moscow, Russia, on Dec. 14, 2023. An estimated 320 journalists around the world were imprisoned because of their work toward the end of 2023. That’s from the Committee to Protect Journalists, which on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024 issued its annual census as of Dec. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Dmitry Serebryakov, file)

The parents of detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich will accompany House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., as his guests for Thursday’s State of the Union address.

Johnson, in a statement shared with The Hill, said he is “honored” to host Ella Milman and Mikhail Gershkovich, the parents of Evan Gershkovich, who has spent more than 250 days behind bars in Russia over espionage charges. 

“By hosting Evan’s parents, Congress will shine a spotlight on the unjust detention of their son. The United States must always stand for freedom of the press around the world, especially in places like Russia, where it is under assault,” Johnson said Tuesday. “The Administration must bring Evan home.”

Gershkovich, 32, was detained last March over allegations he collected military secrets on behalf of the U.S. government, which he, his family, the Journal and the Biden administration have all denied. The U.S. considers him to be wrongfully detained, and Russian authorities have not revealed evidence in support of the charges. 

His parents told the Journal they are thankful to Johnson for the invitation. 

“We are grateful to Speaker Johnson for inviting us to attend the State of the Union and for providing the opportunity to highlight Evan’s wrongful detention,” Milman and Mikhail Gershkovich said in a statement, provided by the Journal. “We’re also grateful to President Biden for his continued work on Evan’s behalf. Evan is an American, and he was doing his job as a journalist. He is most importantly a beloved son and brother, and we want him home.”

When pressed by former Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson to release Gershkovich in an interview last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s response was noncommittal. 

“We have done so many gestures of goodwill out of decency that I think we have run out of them,” Putin said. “We have never seen anyone reciprocate to us in a similar manner. There is no taboo to settle this issue. We are willing to solve it, but there are certain terms being discussed via special services channels. I believe an agreement can be reached.” 

Putin reiterated his belief Gershkovich was working as a spy in Russia and told Carlson, “You know, you can give different interpretations to what constitutes a spy,” while emphasizing he is not ruling out Gershkovich’s return to the U.S. 

Last month, a court in Moscow extended Gershkovich’s pretrial detention, rejecting an appeal from his lawyers and upholding an earlier ruling to keep him jailed until the end of March, The Associated Press reported.  

The Hill reached out to the Journal’s publisher, Dow Jones, for further comment. 

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