US official warns Americans in Russia
Well, let me move on to Evan Gershkovich, of courseThe Wall Street Journal reporterwho has been arrested and detained in Russia on espionage charges.The administration has called these claims ridiculous.Is in the process right now trying to get a console visit with Evan.Has any anything developed on that front yet?Sadly, no, Brianna.We have not been able to achieve consular access and nobody from our embassyhas been able to meet with him.We are continuing to work on that, of course, and willuntil we can get that consular access to ascertain for ourselveshow he’s doing and make sure that that we have that connection.But no, we haven’t.We haven’t been able to gain access to him at this time.
So there’s no engagement with Evan, no updateor status as to where he is and how he is doing?I’m afraid not.I mean, we’re we’re doing the best we can to get informationfrom the Russian government, obviously, as much as we can.And we have been in touch with the family through the State Department.And we will continue those lines of communicationBut right now, I just don’t have much to to update you on.Of course, we are thinking about his family and his colleagues right now.The FSB in their statement said that Mr.Kovac is, quote, suspected of spying in the interests of the American government.And this is what really struck me, John.A Kremlin spokesperson and press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said thathe was, quote, caught red handed.These are very provocative and I would say deliberate words.I can’timagine that this would not have happened without the sign off of Vladimir Putin.Do you agree with that assessment?We can’t delink.We can’t specifically link Mr.Putin to to this arrest.That said, he, as you well know, has really,really clamped down on independent media reporting in Russiaand just shutting down outlets, kicking some out.I mean, it’s it’s a very, very tough environment for any kind ofindependent, independent journalism to to occur.So he has certainly set the conditions where it’s very difficultfor free and independent reporters to actually do their job.And just to put a fine point on it, you didn’t ask, butthe claims, the espionage claims against Mr.Gersh, which are absolutely ludicrous.He was a working journalist for
The Wall Street Journal.And we want to see him released. Yeah.And the administration noted yesterdaythey call these claims Karine Jean-Pierre called them ridiculous.I know that the State Department is in its process, which is routinewhen an American is detained to to get to the actual words and being ableto label this wrongfully detained, where does that process stand?I would have to refer you to the state department.They do have a process that they put in placewhen when we have Americans detained overseas where theytake a look at the circumstances.And I don’t really know where they are in that process.It is very much driven by individual cases.So it’s not driven by a specific timeline necessarily.It’s really driven by, you know, taking a look at each case individually.And they’ll do that and they’ll do that in the appropriate manner.We’re sure that in the meantime, it’s very clear that from everythingwe’ve been able to glean that he was simply picked up for being a reporter.And again, in a country where being a reporter can be a very dangerous thing.And we want to see him released We want to see him released right awayimmediately.That’s he does not belong to be detainedfor for doing the job of a reporter in a foreign country.Let me read to you what his employer
The Wall Street Journal has saidin their editorial and what they believe is the government’s duty now in response.They called his detainment another example of Russia taking a journal hostage.Thuggish leaders keep doing thuggish thingsif they think they will pay no price.Expelling Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., as well as all Russian journalists,would be the minimum to expect the US government’s first dutyis to protect its citizens, and too many governmentsnow believe that they can arrest and imprison Americans with impunity.President Biden was asked just today if he plans to expelRussian journalists or diplomats.He said there are no plans right now. Why not?We are taking a look at this case obviously very closely.Our focus right now, Bianna, is getting Evan out of there,getting getting him released and working towards getting him released.And so that’s where the focus is right now.And I don’t have anything to add to what the president said in termsof any consequences that will come from this.I think it’s important to remember a couple of things.Number one, this is not a new tactic for Mr.Putin.He has he has detained American citizens and citizens from other countriesin a routine way on many times sham charges.
never forgets Americans:
That’s number one.Number two, President Biden never forgets Americans that are detained overseas.He has a whole team here at the State Departmentat the National Security Council dedicated to getting those folks home.And we’re going to do that in Evan’s case.We’re going to work just as hard for Evan as we are for everybody else.But each case has got to belooked at individually. The last thing I’ll say here isthis is not the time for Americans to be in Russia.If you’re in Russia now, whether it’s on business or leisure,whatever kind of travel you need to leave now.This is not a good placefor you to be in Russia, even if you are a working journalist.Russia is a is a hostile environment for American citizens right now,and it’s time to go if you’re there.So as you know,there are severalinternational journalists that are currently working inside Russia,including Americans, including you know, we have colleagueswho maybe not from America, but other Western countriesreporting from Russia as well.Is the administration’s take now that they should leave?
We can’t speak for other countries and certainly wouldn’t do that.Those are those are sovereign nation statesthat can speak for their own citizens.And we would leave it at that.What we’re saying is and the State Department’s been extremely clearabout this on their website, they’ve got a level four advisory out.Russia is not a safe country for Americans to travel to or to be.And if you are in Russia, again, we urge you to leave immediately.You have said that you do not know if this detention was retaliatory or perhaps.Vladimir Putin seeking a prisoner swap, which he’s been known to do in the past.Many experts who follow him believe that’s, in fact, part of his planright now.What is the US’s view on this?Is there anybody that the U.S.is currently detaining who would be able to be swapped with with Evan?We don’t know exactlywhat other motives beyond what they’ve said publiclyfor arresting and detaining.Evan is we just we don’t have any evidence that this wassome sort of retaliatory measure or that it is, in fact, a ploy by Mr.Putin to do a prisoner swap.And I won’t get ahead of where we are on the process here.
We’re going to work to get Evan released, just like we’re going to work to get PaulWhalen released and any other detained Americans overseas.Each case is individual.Each case is specific.And so I certainly wouldn’t talk about what tactics might be in playor what options are before usas we continue to try to work to learn more about Evan’s case.Our main priority right now, obviously, we’d like to see him released right now.Of course, he doesn’t need to be detained.But our main priority is getting access to him physically, consular accessso we can ascertainhow he’s doing and and try to address any immediate needs that he might have.Do you have any developments? Please do keep us posted.I do want to move on to the war in Ukraine in general,because there is growing concern about what, in fact, the U.S.policy is vis-a-vis the war in Ukraine from the get-Go.The Biden administration has said that it is about liberating Ukraineand making sure Russia leaves its boundaries thereand nothing would be done without Ukraine involved.That having been said, there is speculation that going forwardand any sort of assistance in policy really depends a lot on this upcomingoffensive that is expected from Ukraine.Is that in fact the case?How important and pivotal will thisupcoming offensive be in the decision making process?I do not want to speak for future operations of the Ukrainian military.
I would never do that.I wouldn’t even do that for American future operations.We do expect that the Russians are going to go on the offense here,try to go on the offense here in weeks and months ahead, and it’s likelythat the fighting will get more vicious and more bloodily more bloody.We want to make sure that the Ukrainians are able to defend themselvesagainst what we anticipate will be Russian offensive operations.And if they chooseto be able to successfully conduct offensive operations of their own.And so that’s what’s been behind all these recent packages of support we provided.You’ve seen a lot of ammunition going in in recent weeks.You’ll continue to see that.We want to make sure that they’re ready for those offensive operationsif they choose to conduct.And, John, just to be clear, it’s the Ukrainian offensivethat I was actually referring to that that’s expected in the spring,in the coming weeks ahead.How much is riding on Ukraine’s success in terms ofwhat position the Biden administration takes moving forward?Right. No, no,I definitely understood the question and what I don’t want to talk about.Any potential offensive operations conducted by the Ukrainians,that’s for them to decide and for them to speak toWe just want to make sure that they’re ready to defend themselves.And if they choose to go on the offense, to do it and do it successfully.And that’s the key point.
We want them to be successful on the battlefield so that ifand when President Zelensky is ready to sit down at the negotiating table with Mr.Putin and there’s no signs that that’s in the offingany time soon that he can be successful at the negotiating table, too.We want him to have as much strength going into those discussionsas humanly possible.That’s why we’re focused on making sure that the Ukrainians continue to beand beyond they have been extraordinarily successful on the battlefield.You know,they’ve clawed back more than 50% of the territorythat Russia took for them in the early weeks and months of this war.
We want to see that success continue.And that’s what we’re focused on is the administration.And final question, factoring in perhaps the possibility that Vladimir Putin neverwants to sit down at the negotiating go go shouting table earnestly, at least.He certainly has shown no indication of that, has he?I mean, every everything that he has been doing, just matchinghis actions instead of his words.I mean, everything you can see is he wants to continue this war.
He wants to continue to to take away Ukraine’s independence, their sovereignty.He wants to subsume Ukraine into Russia, doesn’t want them to exist anymore.And the Ukrainians are fighting literally for their independence.We see no signs that Mr.Putin is willing to slack off back offer or sit down and have any discussions.And you know what?We’d all love to see the war end certainly as soon as possible.And if it has to end to a negotiated settlement, as you rightly said,when we started talking nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine.Ukraine’s got to be at the center of that discussion.They’ve got to be consulted.Their perspectives have to be viewed and understood.But Mr.Putin could end this war today just by pulling his troops out of Ukraine.Again, he’s shown no signs of doing that,which is why we’ve got to continue to support Ukraine on the battlefield.All right, John Kirby, thank you so much for your time.We appreciate it. You bet.