U.S. ambassador to Russia visits jailed WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovich

FILE - Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich stands in a glass cage in a courtroom in Moscow, Russia, on April 18, 2023. Gershkovich, a U.S. citizen, was arrested in March on espionage charges, which he has denied, as have his employer and the U.S. government. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

MOSCOW (AP) — The U.S. Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy visited imprisoned Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich on Friday, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow said in an online statement.

Tracy's visit comes a day after Gershkovich's parents and sister appeared in the United Nation's headquarters in New York and called on world leaders to urge Russia to free the reporter, who was arrested earlier this year in espionage charges he and his employer reject.

Gershkovich, a 31-year-old U.S. citizen, was detained in late March in the city of Yekaterinburg, almost 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) east of Moscow, while on a reporting trip. He has been held in Moscow's Lefortovo pre-trial detention center, notorious for its harsh conditions, ever since. Last month, a court in Moscow extended his detention until the end of November.

Russia’s Federal Security Service said 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.”

The authorities haven’t detailed what — if any — evidence they have gathered to support the espionage charges, which both Gershkovich and WSJ deny. The U.S. government declared him to be wrongfully detained. The case against Gershkovich, shrouded in secrecy, has rattled journalists both inside and outside Russia.

Tracy, the U.S. ambassador, visited Gershkovich in prison several times since his arrest, most recently in August. Following her visit on Friday, the U.S. embassy said on X, the platform previously known as Twitter, that Gershkovich “remains strong and is keeping up with the news – including his parents’ appearance at the UN this week,” and reiterated the call to release him and another American imprisoned in Russia on espionage charges, Paul Whelan.

Gershkovich is the first American reporter to face espionage charges in Russia since September 1986, when Nicholas Daniloff, a Moscow correspondent for U.S. News and World Report, was arrested by the KGB.

Analysts have pointed out that Moscow may be using jailed Americans as bargaining chips after U.S.-Russian tensions soared over the Kremlin’s military operation in Ukraine.

At least two U.S. citizens arrested in Russia in recent years — including WNBA star Brittney Griner — have been exchanged for Russians jailed in the U.S.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has previously said it would consider a swap for Gershkovich only in the event of a verdict in his trial. In Russia, espionage investigations and trials can last for more than a year.