Senate Bill Calls for Action To Free Americans Detained in Russia

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin introduced Senate Resolution 629 on April 8 which condemns the “arbitrary arrest” of U.S. citizens in Russia, and calls for detained or imprisoned U.S. citizens to be released.

The introduction of SR-629 was timed with the one-year anniversary of Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal correspondent who was imprisoned in Russia for one year. He was arrested in March 2023 on allegations of espionage.

“It is outrageous that Russia, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, is holding hostage American citizens. It is the act of a desperate rogue regime, similar to the criminal actions of countries like Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela,” Durbin wrote in the resolution. “Today, I am introducing a resolution condemning Russia’s hostage-taking, calling for the immediate release of these hostages and urging the administration to consider ‘wrongfully detained’ status. And, to those detained and their families, I want you to know you are not forgotten. We will continue to advocate for your release.”

In a separate press release, Durbin criticized both Russia and Vladimir Putin. “Putin’s cruelty and cynicism were on full display when he decided that he would invade Ukraine and bring it back into the Soviet orbit,” Durbin stated. “He tried to silence anyone in Russia who might dissent from his strategy, including reporting on any Russians who might have the audacity to suggest there should be democracy or freedom in their country, which is why Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is in jail.”

Through SR-269, Durbin and 20 other cosponsors are calling for immediate action. “By introducing this resolution, we’re yet again bringing to light the cruelty of the Russian government.,” Durbin said. “As fellow Americans, we demand the release of all American citizens who face arbitrary arrests by the Russian government.”

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine is one of the primary cosponsors speaking out for all detained citizens, but especially one who is a resident in his own state. “Russia’s arrests of journalists, many of which are U.S. citizens, are disturbing reminders of the lengths Vladimir Putin will go to in order to suppress peoples’ most basic freedoms,” Kaine said. “I urge the State Department to utilize every tool at our disposal to bring our fellow Americans home, including Virginian Vladimir Kara-Murza.”

Vladimir Kara-Murza was detained in Russia in October 2023, and later sentenced to 25 years in a Russian penal colony in April 2024. Durbin worked with Evgenia Kara-Murza, Vladimir’s wife, to showcase the unjust motives of the Russian government. “It was my honor to join Evgenia Kara-Murza to speak out against the detention of her husband Vladimir, a Putin critic who was poisoned twice, and reflect on his fight for democracy,” Durbin wrote on X.

Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman is another main cosponsor who provided a statement about Marc Fogel, who was arrested in August 2021 for possessing half an ounce of medical cannabis in his bag. “I’m proud to stand with my colleagues today and again call for the immediate release of all Americans arbitrarily detained in Russia, including Marc Fogel, a Pennsylvanian,” Fetterman explained. “Marc is a history teacher who dedicated the last 35 years of his life to teaching young people. When he returned for his 10th and final year teaching in Russia, Marc was detained for carrying a small amount of medical marijuana, which was prescribed by his doctor.”

Fetterman calls Fogel’s 14-year large-scale drug trafficking sentence “bogus.” “A fourteen-year sentence is absurd—even by Russian standards,” Fetterman said. “The bottom line is that Marc’s punishment simply does not match the crime. We must bring Marc, and all other unjustly detained Americans, home.”

SR-269 also cites many other examples of Russian imprisonment for citizens including Paul Whelan, journalist Alsu Kurmasheva, and Ksenia Khavana. Durbin also criticized the death of Alexei Navalny in February. Navalny had politically opposed Putin for over 10 years, but his recent death is being listed as “sudden death syndrome.”

Many of these cases echo that of WNBA athlete Brittney Griner, whose harrowing experience being detained in Russia for being in possession of cannabis vape charges in March 2022 captured nationwide attention. She was later released in December 2022 in a prisoner exchange that freed Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

One year after Griner’s release, she announced that she made a deal with ESPN Films and Disney to create a documentary about her story. “The last two years have been the most harrowing, transformative and illuminating period of my life, and I am grateful to be in a place now to share my story with the world,” said Griner in December 2023. “I’m proud to partner with ESPN and Disney to share this very personal story because of its incredible potential to inspire hope around the world and their proven ability to do just that.”

Griner was supported by other famous athletes such as LeBron James and Dennis Rodman, in addition to many legislators and President Joe Biden as well.

The post Senate Bill Calls for Action To Free Americans Detained in Russia appeared first on High Times.


  • No comments yet.
  • Add a comment