Factbox-Who could feature in a Russia-US prisoner swap?

By Thomson Reuters Feb 14, 2024 | 7:09 AM

(Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week that it might be possible to free Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who is awaiting trial in Moscow on spying charges, in exchange for a Russian jailed abroad.

The United States is also pressing for the release of another American citizen, Paul Whelan.

The Kremlin declined on Tuesday to comment on whether a swap was being prepared, saying any deal could only be negotiated “in silence”.

Who are the Americans detained in Russia and who are the Russians held abroad whom Moscow would like to get back?


Gershkovich, an American journalist employed by the Wall Street Journal and accredited by the Russian government to work as a reporter, was arrested in March 2023 in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg and accused of trying to obtain defence secrets.

He and his newspaper strongly reject the charges and the U.S. government has designated him as wrongfully detained.

Gershkovich has been held in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison since his arrest, which has been extended multiple times. No date has been set for his espionage trial.


A former U.S. marine holding U.S., British, Irish and Canadian citizenship, Whelan was arrested in Russia in 2018. He was convicted of espionage in 2020 and handed a 16-year sentence. He denied the charges.

At the time of his arrest, Whelan was head of global security for BorgWarner, a Michigan-based car parts supplier. Russian investigators said he was a spy for military intelligence and had been caught red-handed with a computer flash drive containing classified information.

Whelan did not figure in a U.S.-Russia prisoner exchange in December 2022 involving U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner, despite months of speculation that he would be involved. Griner was eventually traded for Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this week he had spoken on Monday with Whelan, but offered no further details. Like Gershkovich, Whelan is designated by the State Department as wrongfully detained.


Kurmasheva is a Prague-based reporter for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), a media outlet funded by the U.S. Congress and designated by Russia as a foreign agent.

A dual citizen of the U.S. and Russia, Kurmasheva was arrested in the Russian city of Kazan in October, having arrived in May to visit her elderly mother. She was initially charged with failing to register as a foreign agent, which risks up to five years in prison.

In December, Russian investigators opened a new case against her for spreading false information about the Russian army – an offence which carries a sentence of up to 15 years.

Kurmasheva’s husband has petitioned the United States to designate her as wrongfully detained, which would oblige Washington to seek ways to bring about her release.


Vadim Krasikov is a Russian national currently serving a life sentence in a German prison for murdering an exiled Chechen-Georgian dissident in a Berlin park in 2019.

A German judge accused Russia of state terrorism, saying the order to kill must have come from Putin himself. Russia contests the judge’s interpretation.

In his interview with American journalist Tucker Carlson last week, Putin hinted that Krasikov was the Russian prisoner he wanted swapped for Gershkovich, referring to a person who “due to patriotic sentiments, eliminated a bandit in one of the European capitals”.

Germany has always declined to comment on reports that Russia might be seeking to swap Krasikov for Gershkovich, as it would involve releasing a prisoner convicted of murder on German territory for a U.S. citizen.


Dunaev is a Russian national imprisoned in the United States while awaiting sentencing on cybercrime charges. He is accused by the U.S. Justice Department of belonging to a cybercriminal gang that deployed a computer banking trojan and ransomware suite of malware known as “Trickbot” and was extradited from South Korea to Ohio in 2021.

In November 2023 Dunaev pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit computer fraud and identity theft and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud. He faces a maximum penalty of 35 years in prison on both counts when he is sentenced on March 20.


The son of a Russian lawmaker, Seleznev was found guilty by a U.S. federal court in Washington State in 2016 of perpetrating a cyber assault on thousands of U.S. businesses that involved hacking into point-of-sales computers to steal credit card numbers, resulting in $169 million in losses.

He was sentenced in 2017 to 27 years in prison, the longest ever hacking-related sentence in the U.S. That same year Seleznev pleaded guilty to participating in a racketeering scheme in Nevada and conspiracy to commit bank fraud in Georgia and received a 14-year jail term for each, to run concurrently with the Washington sentence.

Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov visited Seleznev in 2022 and called his prison conditions in North Carolina “unacceptable”, demanding that he be transferred to a penitentiary with better care.

(Reporting by Lucy Papachristou; Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Gareth Jones)