Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
September 13, 2023
Good morning, everyone.
I am pleased to be joined today by the family of Evan Gershkovich, an American journalist who has been wrongfully detained in Russia for more than 160 days. Ella, Mikhail, Danielle – thank you so much for being here with me today. And thank you for the honor of allowing me to be here with you.
I cannot imagine the pain that you are experiencing seeing your son – your brother – locked up for simply doing his job, for reporting the truth. No family should have to watch their loved one being used as a political pawn.
And that’s exactly what President Putin is doing. Russia’s actions are beyond cruel. And they are a violation of international law.
Two wrongfully detained Americans, Brittney Griner and Trevor Reed, have now been reunited with their families. But Evan Gershkovich and Paul Whelan still languish in Russian prisons on baseless charges.
Mark my words: the United States will not rest until Evan and Paul, and all wrongfully detained Americans, are home, safe and sound. And we urge the international community, and the United Nations, to stand with us. To stand on the side of justice. And to condemn Russia’s flagrant violations of international law.
It has been nearly six months since Evan was arrested. To that end, Evan’s parents have delivered a petition to the United Nations – a petition that calls on this institution to make clear that Evan Gershkovich has been arbitrarily detained, and to push for his immediate release.
We urge all Member States to join this call for Evan’s release, and the release of all those who have been wrongfully detained.
Now, I would like to turn the floor over to Ella, Mikhail, and Danielle. Thank you very much. Welcome to the podium.
ELLA MILMAN: Hello. Good morning. Thank you all for being here today. Thanks also to the Ambassador, the U.S. government, and the United Nations. As you can imagine, this is a very difficult time for our family.
Evan has now been wrongfully detained by Russia for nearly six months for doing his job as a journalist. We are still in shock. Every day is a day too long, I miss him every day.
Evan loves being a journalist. His passion is reporting the news and helping people understand Russia and the Russian people. He’s always been curious about the world and loved traveling. He cares deeply about people. His reporting has kept the world informed, and we all miss reading his stories.
Now what he writes is letters. We’ve been able to send letters back and forth, and it gives me comfort to see how strong he is. We are glad he’s kept his sense of humor – teasing me that the prison food reminds him of my cooking.
We are all very concerned, especially since it’s been so long, and we want him to come home as soon as possible.
The lawyers have filed a petition asking the United Nations to declare that Russia’s imprisonment of Evan is wrong and unlawful. We hope this will help bring Evan home sooner.
And I’ll now pass the microphone to Mikhail to say few words as well. Thank you all.
MIKHAIL GERSHKOVICH: Hello. Our thoughts are with our son, Evan, as he endures this difficult time in Russian prison. We know he is strong, but the past several months have been a nightmare for our family. It has also been trying for Evan’s many friends and colleagues. We hate to think of what Evan is going through, simply for doing his job.
My family is encouraged to know that so many people around the world also want Evan released. We are grateful for all the support Evan has received.
We thank Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield and her team at the United States Mission to the United Nations for their strong and ongoing support and for standing with us today.
As Ella mentioned, yesterday the lawyers filed a petition with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. This petition explains that Evan’s detention is a violation of his human rights, and that Russia should release him immediately.
We just want him home.
Next week, world leaders will gather here to discuss many important issues. We urge all world leaders to stand with Evan and what he represents, the basic right to a free press and freedom of expression. These rights are bedrock principles of the United Nations.
Now our daughter, Danielle, will say a few words.
DANIELLE GERSHKOVICH: Evan should not be in prison in Russia. And my family should not be here today.
Instead, we should be planning for Evan’s next visit home where he would tell us all about his amazing travels and experiences. We should be planning for his birthday next month and deciding how we can possibly match his talent for finding the most thoughtful gifts for his family and friends. We should be laughing together and arguing over what he and my dad are going to make for dinner. Evan should be doing the important work of helping people understand matters in the world that affect us all.
Instead, we are here to remind the world that Evan is innocent, and journalism is not a crime. We ask that world leaders help find a solution to secure Evan’s release. If this can happen to my brother, it can happen to any journalist trying to report the news.
We just want Evan home. We miss him more and more every day. We are thankful for everyone who is standing with Evan and our family during this difficult time.
I’ll now turn it over to the U.S. Mission.
NATE EVANS: Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield will take a question or two, and if there’s any specific questions about the petition, we have a representative here who can answer as well to take those. [Inaudible.] Pamela, thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you. It’s Pamela Falk from CBS News. Thank you to you all for being here and to the Ambassador. My question is to the Ambassador, what is the – well that maybe to Jay – what is the status of the petition, but to the Ambassador, is their a possibility of a swap, and is the U.S. working with Germany on the person who has been identified as a possible swap? And perhaps to Ella and Mikhail, can you tell us anything about Evan’s mood in the – once the six-month mark has passed?
ELLA MILMAN: He is holding up. He is very strong. We are in contact with his Russian lawyers and that’s what they report. And their American Ambassador, Ambassador Lynn Tracy, reported as well that they’ve enjoyed a conversation with him, that he’s [understanding] the situations, and doing really well considering the circumstances. Thank you.
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: In response to your questions regarding negotiations, I can’t get into the details of what may be happening on that front. Other than to say that we are working around the clock, we’re working diligently to have Evan, as well as others who have been wrongfully detained, released.
QUESTION: Thank you, can Jay answer the question?
GERSHKOVICH FAMILY LAWYER: On the petition, it’s just been filed. And so, we expect the UN will take expeditious action. We ask them to do it urgently given the circumstances. And on swaps, as I said yesterday, our job is to pursue every possible path there is in every possible corner of the world in which we can in order to get Evan home to his wonderful family as quickly as possible.
NATE EVANS: I think we have time for one more question.
QUESTION: Yeah, Ambassador, we think the Foreign Minister Lavrov will be here in New York next week. Will you, or Secretary Blinken, meet with him to discuss Evan’s case? And on a separate, but related matter, can I get your reaction to the Putin-Kim meeting taking place?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: In terms of meetings that are planned by the Secretary, I can’t give you any preview of those meetings. I assume Lavrov will be in the Security Council, and I can say that every opportunity I have in my engagements with my Russian counterpart I do raise concerns and ask that Evan be released.
And you saw the news on the Putin meeting. I don’t have anything to share differently other than to say that it shows how desperate Russia is that they are engaged with the DPRK.