In a rare direct conversation with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has demanded the immediate release of a recently imprisoned American journalist.

The US State Department said Blinken and Lavrov spoke on the phone on Sunday. Blinken conveyed the US government’s “great concern” about the unacceptable detention of the American reporter and called for his immediate release. He called on Russia to release long-detained US citizen Paul Whelan.

Since the Russian war of aggression against all of Ukraine, phone calls between the two foreign ministers have become rare. After the meeting, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Lavrov asked Blinken to respect the decisions of the Russian authorities, which are in accordance with the legislation and Russia’s international obligations. The court will decide on the further fate of the reporter, Lavrov said accordingly. It was also stressed that it was unacceptable for officials in Washington and Western media to put pressure on the case with the intention of giving the case a political slant, Moscow said.

A court in Moscow issued an arrest warrant against American reporter Evan Gershkovich on Thursday for alleged espionage for the United States. The Wall Street Journal journalist had also researched Russia’s war against Ukraine. He was initially in custody until May 29, the court said. Gershkovich faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

The Wall Street Journal rejected the allegations against his employee. The White House called the espionage allegations ridiculous and strongly condemned Gershkovich’s imprisonment. US President Joe Biden also called on Russia on Friday to release him.

The American Paul Whelan, on the other hand, has been in prison in Russia for several years – also on charges of alleged espionage.