The sister of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who has been detained in Russia since March on spying charges, appealed for his release on Tuesday ahead of his upcoming 32nd birthday.

"Every day that Evan is in prison is a day too long," Danielle Gershkovich said in an interview with AFP in Washington. "We want him home."

Gershkovich, who was arrested in late March during a reporting trip in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg, is the first Western reporter to be jailed on espionage charges in Russia since the Soviet era.

He turns 32 years old on Thursday.

Gershkovich, The Wall Street Journal and the US government have categorically denied the spying allegations, saying he was simply doing his job as a reporter.

Danielle Gershkovich said her family had received a promise from US President Joe Biden that "he's going to get Evan home."


"So we're relying on the government," she said. "But of course Evan isn't here today so the job's not done until he's sitting with us.

"So we just have to remain strong and do our part on our end."

At the most recent court hearing, two weeks ago, Judge Yuri Pasyunin of the Moscow City Court ordered Gershkovich's continued detention until at least November 30.

Danielle Gershkovich said her family had been able to exchange letters with her brother.

"Those are a lifeline for all of us," she said. "I love to use them as a moment to keep his spirits up.

"When I'm reading his letters I hear his voice in my head," she added. "I get to feel like we're just talking together. I feel connected to him."

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- 'Passionate about being a journalist' -

Danielle Gershkovich said her family was relying on Russian lawyers to navigate the judicial system but "unfortunately it's a pretty opaque case."

She been studying previous cases involving Americans detained in Russia, "seeing them get back to their lives after coming home."

"I know that Evan will come out of this stronger and he'll want to get back to being a reporter," she said. "He's incredibly passionate about being a journalist. It's really his life's passion."


Russia has not provided any public evidence of the allegations it has made against Gershkovich, who previously worked for AFP.

Gershkovich continued to report from Russia after the Kremlin launched its Ukraine offensive, despite many Western journalists leaving the country.

He has been held at Moscow's notorious Lefortovo prison.

Gershkovich's parents, who fled the Soviet Union, went to the United Nations last month to call for their son's release ahead of the annual General Assembly.

Several US citizens have been handed heavy sentences in Russia in recent years. Washington accuses Moscow of using them as bargaining chips to obtain the release of Russians held in the United States.

In December, Russia freed American basketball star Brittney Griner, who was arrested over traces of cannabis, in return for the release of Viktor Bout, a Russian imprisoned in the United States for weapons smuggling.

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