The Biden administration formally determined on Monday that a Wall Street Journal reporter arrested in Russia on espionage charges has been “wrongfully detained”.
The designation elevates the case of Evan Gershkovich in the US government hierarchy and means that a dedicated state department office will take the lead on securing his release.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the determination on Monday, saying he condemned the arrest and Russia’s repression of independent media.
“Today, Secretary Blinken made a determination that Evan Gershkovich is wrongfully detained by Russia,” the department said in a statement.
“Journalism is not a crime. We condemn the Kremlin’s continued repression of independent voices in Russia, and its ongoing war against the truth.”
Russian authorities arrested Mr Gershkovich, 31, in Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth-largest city, on March 29.
He is the first US correspondent since the Cold War to be detained for alleged spying.
The federal security service specifically accused Mr Gershkovich of trying to obtain classified information about a Russian arms factory.
The Wall Street Journal has denied the accusations.
The State Department said the US government will provide all appropriate support to Mr Gershkovich and his family and again called for Russia to release him as well as another detained US citizen, Paul Whelan.