Biden says Russia's arrest of Wall Street Journal reporter 'totally illegal'
US president to attempt to speak with Evan Gershkovich's family Tuesday after failing to make contact Monday
US President Joe Biden sharply denounced on Tuesday Russia's arrest of a Wall Street Journal reporter as "totally illegal."
Asked if he could weigh in on Evan Gershkovich's detention, Biden told reporters at the White House that Secretary of State Antony Blinken's decision to declare the journalist wrongfully detained "changes the dynamic" of his case.
Biden said he attempted to speak Monday with Gershkovich's family but was unsuccessful and will try again Tuesday aboard Air Force One as he heads to Northern Ireland.
Blinken formally designated Gershkovich as wrongfully detained Monday after he was taken into custody by Russian officers on March 29. He has since been accused of espionage, a charge his employer stalwartly denies.
The secretary's determination moves Gershkovich's case to the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, which is dedicated to conducting negotiations for American hostages and others deemed "wrongfully detained" abroad.
The decision also opens the door to additional resources to secure Gershkovich's release, including by pressuring the Russian government through the media and international forums, building diplomatic coalitions, monitoring intelligence and fighting for regular consular access.
The State Department said Monday it has yet to be granted consular access to the reporter, calling Russia's refusal a violation of international law and "Russia’s obligations under our consular convention."
"We have stressed the need for the Russian Government to provide this access as soon as possible," spokesperson Vedant Patel said. "We believe that it is a matter of human dignity to ensure that Mr. Gershkovich can meet with consular officers."