U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King were among a bipartisan group of 32 senators who drafted a letter of support to Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal reporter and Bowdoin College graduate who has been detained in Russia since March on spying charges that U.S. officials call bogus.

“We hope you are doing as well as possible under the current circumstances and understand the enormous burden you may feel as the Russian government uses you as a political tool,” the senators wrote in the letter, which was mailed to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow with the expectation that it be delivered to Gershkovich. “We hope this letter makes clear our support and solidarity on your behalf and our desire that you and fellow detainee Paul Whelan are immediately and unconditionally released. Since your arrest, we have advocated for your release publicly and privately. We will not stop until you are safely home. We believe that a free press is crucial to the foundation and support of human rights everywhere.”

Wall Street Journal reporter and Bowdoin College graduate Evan Gershkovich was detained by Russian authorities. Courtesy of The Wall Street Journal

Gershkovich, 31, who graduated from Bowdoin College in 2014, was arrested March 29 in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg and accused of spying. He faces up to 20 years in prison.

Russia’s Federal Security Bureau claims Gershkovich, “acting on the instructions of the American side, collected information constituting a state secret about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex,” according to The Associated Press. The Wall Street Journal denies Russia’s claim and said Gershkovich was on a reporting trip. President Joe Biden said Russia should “let him go.”

Experts said Gershkovich’s case closely resembles that of Whelan, the former U.S. Marine who was arrested in Russia in 2018 on espionage charges and sentenced to 16 years in prison.

“We are fully committed to bringing you, Paul, and every wrongfully detained American home at the earliest opportunity,” the senators continued in their letter. “Every day you spend in Russia is a day too long. Please know that the support for you and Paul go well beyond the walls of the United States Senate, and that the American people are with us in demanding your release.”


Earlier this month, the House of Representatives voted 422-0 in favor of a resolution demanding Gershkovich’s release, a rare unanimous decision for the body.

Last month, a Russian court extended Gershkovich’s pretrial detention until Aug. 30. Experts said it could be years until Gershkovich goes on trial in a criminal justice system that has a 99% conviction rate. They said he likely faces a stiff sentence and that a prisoner exchange is his best hope for freedom.

Gershkovich’s parents attended the detention hearing, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“He was so happy to see us,” his mother, Ella Milman, told the newspaper. “It was a relief for him, and a relief for us.”

She said it was hard to see him in a cage during the hearing and that since they were not allowed to talk to him, they could only smile at each other.

“I don’t know how to describe this happiness and this sadness at the same time,” she said.

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