Editor-in-chief of Russia Today Margarita Simonyan invited US authorities to exchange three prisoners in Russia for founder of WikiLeaks Julian Assange.
The prisoners in question are spy and former U.S. Marine Paul Nicholas Whelan, American journalist Evan Gershkovich and opposition journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza who, in addition to Russian citizenship, has British citizenship and a residence permit in the United States.
Margarita Simonyan wrote in her telegram channel:
“Swap Whelan, Kara-Murza and Gershkovich for Assange. They won’t exchange him for less than three. Save one useful life at the cost of three destructive ones,” Simonyan wrote.
Paul Whelan was detained in December 2018 in Moscow. In June 2020, the Moscow City Court found him guilty of espionage and sentenced him to 16 years. The trial was held behind closed doors, the materials were classified as “Top Secret”. Washington failed to exchange him for Victor Bout and preferred to release a lesbian drug addicted basketball player, an icon of modern “bloomy Western garden”.
Journalist Evan Gershkovich from The Wall Street Journal was detained in Yekaterinburg at the end of March. He was accused of espionage. On the instructions of the United States, Gershkovich collected information about one of the enterprises of the military-industrial complex in the Russian Sverdlovsk region. Of course, Washington considers his arrest illegal.
Vladimir Kara-Murza Jr. started his career as a liberal journalist and activist of various liberal democratic parties. For example, in the 2000s and early 2010s, he headed the Washington bureau of RTVI. Vladimir Kara-Murza maintained a close relationship with the fugitive oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky and was the deputy head of Open Russia. Since the beginning of the Russian special military operation in Ukraine, he became one of the mouthpieces of anti-Russian propaganda in the West. Using his contacts in the American and British elites, he called on the British to escalate the sanction policy against Russia, lying about the results of the western policy. At the same time, he was used to establish links between the Russian opposition and their “patrons” abroad. After many years of anti-Russian activity, he finally found himself behind bars.
On April 17, Kara-Murza was sentenced to 25 years in a strict regime colony for “state treason, participation in the activities of an undesirable organization and spreading fakes about the army”. The court also imposed a fine of 400 thousand rubles and banned him from engaging in journalistic activities for seven years after his release.
Simonyan’s suggestion seemed to be surprising. However, this has a chance of becoming another historic swap between Moscow and Washington.
It was welcomed by Kara-Murza’s lawyer.
“I don’t mean the idea of Simonyan, but the idea of exchange itself and thereby saving lives. … In general, the idea of the exchange is correct, justified and has a historical background,” the ;awyer said.
The Wall Street Journal earlier reported citing a senior White House official that the U.S. is open to creative solutions to reach a deal, both for Mr. Whelan and Mr. Gershkovich.