Russian Opposition MP demands swapping arrested journalist Gershkovich with Assange

Russia's Opposition MP Sergei Obukov demanded that Kremlin should swap arrested Wall Street Journal scribe Gershkovich with Julian Assange.

Russian Opposition MP demands swapping arrested journalist Gershkovich with Assange

Amid the uproar over the arrest of Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich by Russian authorities on espionage charges, a Russian parliamentarian raised a new demand for a prisoner swapping with the West.

As the western powers are demanding Gershkovich’s release, Sergei Obukov, a member of the Parliament (MP) belonging to the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), a staunch opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, demanded that Moscow should offer the West a prisoner swap proposal, exchanging Gershkovich for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is imprisoned in the UK.

On Thursday, March 30th, Moscow claimed that Gershkovich was arrested red-handed by Russian intelligence Ekaterinburg while allegedly passing the country’s secret information to the West. Western powers have demanded Gershkovich’s immediate release.

Over 30 anti-government Russian-origin journalists, anchors and authors, most of whom are either based in the West or have been opposing Russia’s domestic and foreign policies, have written a letter demanding the immediate release of Gershkovich.

These journalists include Ivan Kolpakov, chief editor of Meduza, a Latvia-based, pro-NATO and anti-Russia media outlet, Galina Timchenko, the Latvia-based publisher of Meduza, Tikhon Dzyadko, the chief editor of the Netherland-based TV Rain with a family connection to controversial American tycoon George Soros, Berlin-based author Mikhail Zygar, Sergey Smirnov, chief editor of Mediazona, which is linked to the controversial pro-western Pussy Riot band, Yegor Skovoroda of Mediazona, Dmitry Kozelev, chief editor of Republic who fled Russia after supporting the NATO in February 2022, Sergey Parkhomenko, a Public Policy Fellow and Senior Advisor at the Washington DC-based Kenan Institute of Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, etc.

“Gershkovich’s unwarranted and unjust arrest is a significant escalation in your government’s anti-press actions. Russia is sending the message that journalism within your borders is criminalised and that foreign correspondents seeking to report from Russia do not enjoy the benefits of the rule of law,” said a media release by global journalists.

Obukov told Russian media outlet RIA Novosti, “I say, let’s exchange him (Gershkovich) for Assange instead”. Despite his and the KPRF’s consistent opposition to Putin’s government, Obukov was sanctioned by the US and its western allies, along with 324 other MPs of Russia’s Duma, after Moscow started its special military operations in Ukraine.

Assange has been imprisoned in the UK for more than a decade for independent journalism and for exposing the atrocities of the US. The process of extraditing him to the US is ongoing in the UK, despite the massive agitation of journalists, activists, intellectuals and democratic organisations demanding his release.

In 2010, WikiLeaks released a video called ‘Collateral Murder’ showing the killing of innocent civilians by the US military. WikiLeaks also released classified documents about the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, stirring Washington DC’s ire against the organisation.

The US and UK governments launched legal proceedings against the WikiLeaks founder early last decade under the garb of a rape charge. Assange took refuge in the embassy of Ecuador in London, after he got asylum from the country’s former left-wing regime to save himself.

But after far-right Lenin Moreno ascended to power in Ecuador in 2019, the Latin American country rejected Assange’s request for political asylum. He has since been held in Belmarsh Prison in South London. If Assange is extradited to the US, he could face up to 175 years in prison under that country’s tough laws against whistle-blowers.

Some MPs from Russia’s right-wing camp demanded a few days ago that Gershkovich be exchanged for former US president and opposition leader Donald Trump, who is persecuted in his home country. The MPs demanded that Trump be granted political asylum in Russia as he faces legal persecution in the US for his anti-government views.

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