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Moscow rejects U.S. request to see reporter; Russia“s U.S. envoy sees prisoners

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Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was detained in March while on a reporting trip and charged with espionage, stands behind a glass wall of an enclosure for defendants before a court hearing to consider an appeal against his detention, in Moscow, Russia April 18, 2023. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina

Russia said on Thursday it had rejected a U.S. embassy request to visit detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich in response to Washington’s refusal to grant visas to a group of Russian journalists.

The foreign ministry said it had summoned a senior American diplomat to formally protest after reporters assigned to accompany Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to the United Nations this week were unable to enter the United States.

Hours later, Moscow’s envoy to Washington said he had visited two Russian prisoners being held in U.S. jails.

Gershkovich was arrested last month and accused of espionage, a charge he has denied. The United States has designated him as wrongfully detained.

There was no immediate comment from the U.S. Embassy.

Russia’s foreign ministry said it had rejected a U.S. request to pay a consular visit on May 11 and was considering other retaliation against Washington over the visa snub.

Moscow expressed anger because it was Russia’s turn to chair the U.N. Security Council.

“It was particularly emphasised (to the U.S. diplomat) that such sabotage, intended to prevent normal journalistic work, would not go unanswered,” the ministry said in a statement.

Lavrov side-stepped questions this week about a prisoner swap involving Gershkovich. Last year, U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner – imprisoned in Russia on drug charges – was exchanged for arms dealer Viktor Bout.

Russia’s embassy in Washington said envoy Anatoly Antonov had gone to a New York jail on Wednesday to see Anatoly Legkodymov, arrested in January on charges he operated virtual currency exchange Bitzlato Ltd. It called for his release.

The embassy also said Antonov had seen Dmitry Ukrainsky, who was extradited from Thailand last year to face fraud charges and is in the same jail.

“We will work for his return to his homeland,” the mission said in a post on the Telegram messaging app.

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